Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cortines and the Concubine

I do not believe, by the way , that Cortines having a tryst with another man has made him unfit for the honor of having this ironically opulent school named after him. He may have used bad judgement in that case but compared to his conflicts of interest and unseemly alliance with corruption and corporate vultures, it's a spot of catsup thrown on top of jar full of Spaghetti sauce as an afterthought.
It's as if satire is embedded in the LAUSD saga for as we reportedly face a budget shortfall of massive proportions, we should be asking ourselves why Mr. Cortines indulged Eli Broad's whims on this school's construction and probably others, as well as why the school that would be Ramon Cortines High School for the arts was built in the first place.
( among many other things!).

It seems to me LAUSD is busy acquiring assets , which includes real estate and other investments that are unlikely to be used for students' benefit. In fact, the district typically goes for what is cheapest and fastest when it comes to investing in students' future. Look at all the toxic sites poor students are attending classes on. Look at the horror that waits just ahead with Belmont High School! These Taj Mahal schools are not in students' best interest. Even if the kids who attend these schools were somehow served by their opulence ( I contend they are a burden o these kids and all of us), a more modest campus would do the most good as it would leave money for other schools in desperate need of repairs.
I am not saying they shouldn't build schools when we need them, which we do.

With an average HS is built to accommodate 2000 kids, there is a problem going in, but it's even worse than this. In my mind this is insane. Who crams 2000 surly humans fractured by urban blight and adolescence into a single school and actually expects a positive outcome!? These diverse demographics coupled with urban life: poverty, drugs , gangs and violence make it clear that the comprehensive HS is dysfunctional. You see, the schools below the ten are in disrepair. Some are dangerous . Many have tainted drinking water, asbestos and moldy walls. Oh yeah, and that HS built for 2000 holds app. 3500 in Carson, Bell, Wilmington, SOUTH Gate, south Central, Watts, Athens,Florence, Huntington Park, and of course through out LAUSD. The district addresses the dangers of over crowding by pulling together a force of LAPD rejects who condition Students to become criminals, cuffing them, degrading and gleefully denying their rights. The principals often get restrooms in their offices but there are not enough bathrooms for students, who are herded about campus like livestock.
They are basically counted for ADA funding, which is really all the district cares about and "managed" rather than educated. They are counted, but students don't count.

If they did, there would never be a Ramon Cortines HS for the Arts. Maybe a Tupac, a Kahlo, a Basquiat, a Banksy, an Edgar Allen Poe, a Tim Burton, or a Sapphire HS for the Arts but not a Ramon ( "let's fire the art teachers, dump the music programs and ask the community to donate $ for supplies ") Cortines HS for the Arts.

It is telling that just like the overpaid , nonessential educRAT$ down town , these cops do not seem concerned about the looming lay offs, unfair dismissals and a very uncertain future teachers are clearly sweating despite predictions there will be a teacher shortage in the near future. They too have accepted furlough days, but latently. Apparently it didn't occur to anyone that our school police were beside the point for that 10 extra d
days without kids at school.

I assert we don't need these cops at all, a claim supported by the success of Long Beach Unified Schools, where the same diverse demographics excel and do so without armed dicks issuing unfair citations and violating children's civil rights, something they don't have on an LAUSD campus. Neither do teachers nor parents for that matter.
While it is true there are new schools built to alleviate some of the issues with over crowding and deplorable conditions, they are very much the same modern low security penal instituted blue prints for AHHS.
This means

So. Regent HS, etc may be an improvement on the windowless cinder block, prison flavored mutations we do have, but they cannot take in all the area students, leaving many stuck in dirty , derelict structures. These tract schools certainly are modest beside Cortines HS for VAPA, where art and drama may be discontinued next year. Maybe kids who are attending classes at RFK, a site that is part pop culture paraphernalia, part museum, part unchecked interior design fantasy, could lend insight about how going to an auditorium with imported tile, fancy gold leaf paint and talking chairs isn't all its cracked up to be .
I seriously doubt it improves self-esteem .

These schools were built with a cunning eye for detail.
Of course, these Taj Mahal schools have not had much impact on test scores nor have they improved drop out stats but they may be a great balm for educRAT$ ego.

What has improved is the contractors' socioeconomic status. Need I point out that all these schools are in close proximity to district HQ? Between the vulture philanthropists circling and a pathological obsession with appearances, we should not be surprised school leaders are preoccupied with impressing visitors, investors, an occasional starlet or comely social networking guru?
I find it arrogant and unethical that school officials slap their names on schools as Cortines has after a career of disservice.

Like I said the former superintendent's sex life is not my concern unless it involves minors. However, he didn't abide policy when he indulged in "spontaneous" "adult" sexual behaviors with a man who essentially is a subordinate. I certainly doubt that he was abusing his power intentionally. This time.
Because he did not have to. In his mind, the sex was completely consensual He even mutters, it seems, that, as far as he knew, the intimacy was welcome. Although he is in tremendous shape and appears more vital than many people half his age, Cortines is diminutive and well into his 70s. It is unlikely he has the physical power or desire to rape another man, particular one much bigger and younger than himself. I doubt that he threatened the man's position if he refused his sexual advances and suspect if the man had sex with him and did so against his will, it was due to assumptions he made, not by way of the older man's word or deeds. Either way something about this whole thing really doesn't pass the smell test, as Deasy likes to say.

Why am I defending that horrible little man, you ask? Well , something is amiss. How is it that LAUSD settles this matter, which no one was aware of until we got news the board voted to pay off Cortines' one night stand with a paltry 200k (less than a year and half of of this victim's salary I bet) and fails to follow a long standing tradition of gag orders as part of the agreement? What's point of paying off plaintiffs ( something lausd rarely will do) if you're going to blab about it on the evening news?

To be fair, reporters are not quoting the plaintiff. They're not naming the sources either, but the phrasing and officiousness of the information is decidedly LAUSD. Why on earth would LAUSD pay 200k and another 250K in lifetime benefits to settle a sexual harassment case out of court then thrust the scandal into the hands of every reporter in the state?
A few minutes after news broke, an eager reporter greets Cortines in his driveway, shoving a mike into his face. Cortines is unrecognizable in his running clothes, deeply tanned, and sweating.;he is self-conscious without his suit and turns his back to the camera as he politely repeats himself: "Talk to the district, " he heads into his beautiful mansion on the impossibly green lawn that is manicured obsessively. To be fair he has already given a very transparent statement that rings true. The men were at his other home in Kern county when " spontaneous" sexual behavior took place. As if his feelings are hurt, Cortines contends he had no idea his attention was unwelcome. My guess is the other man had no idea he himself felt this way until after the fact--power is an aphrodisiac. How you think Kissinger and Nixon got laid? We know some people will stop at nothing to realize ambitions , but if we are honest, we are going to admit that most sex is usually complicated by issues like power, miscommunication and remorse.

Cortines made an error, that much cannot be refuted. You don't bang your subordinates at a public school district. But it seems likely that Cortines would gladly fork over the $2000K personally to make this go away. He can afford it. Moreover, the money taxpayers are complaining they had to surrender for his carnal blunder is a sore spot the former Superintendent knows too well. He has used that same ploy to provoke the public's animosity in the past. Consider the $2 million it cost to buy out Brewer when Cortines orchestrated his coup a few years ago. Then there was criminal genius behind his moral outrage about the rubber room teachers who languished in limbo for years doing nothing while receiving full pay thanks to tenure. That sure made it a bit easier to accept how test scores were published by the LAT. Even after a teacher committed suicide in response to his devastatingly low ( and erroneous) rating.

Presently, Deasy is fallaciously employing a similar tactic with the Governor about the shortage of funding but with far less success. Obviously, LAUSD has a lot of nerve asking for more in light of the obscene sums it has already taken and in light of how many state schools do so much better with so much less. LAUSD takes an excessive amount of the educational money provided by the Feds and State, but somehow it is never enough. Now Deasy is extorting the money but holding education hostage . No arts, no preschool, no magnets, no vocational outlets, no interventions, no nothing except more tests ( Mr, Deasy stole that from Title 1 Funds but I'll save that for another rant). He has no plans to rehire teachers, by the way. RIFs were mostly a bluff we became used to with Cortines, but Deasy is a mercenary, while Cortines is more seemingly hap less bureaucrat. He is so much more than that. He's the con man Mr.Deasy wishes he could be.

There is something mild and soothing about Cortines' public personae. He has a warped benevolence, which is what enabled our dysfunction. Our Ethically challenged , but charming poppa in his Hermes' tie probably could seduce just about anyone, for every kind of reason, and has. That's not sexual harassment. It's called game, and apparently poppa Chula has it in spades. The old man is a Why do we have have to pay his concubine for these tawdry little escapades (Education Code 820, by the way, is the culprit.

Now it's my turn to be transparent here: I rather admire Cortines for his cunning and self-restraint. He is such a great double-crosser. Deasy should be so adept, so shrewd. He is simply ruthless. And so much harder to like than Cortines. Like I pointed out he is a player and anyone aware of Deasy's agenda and top down fear mongering brand of leadership, resents him deeply. Where former superintendents are often adversarial with teachers, it is particularly poisonous when leadership is acrimonious, at war with those beneath him. Deasy abides no law or codes that hinders his mission yet he hypocritically seeks to impose his will on the laws he's presently breaking. He honors his agenda: this is about the value of " human capitol", which is of great interest to Deasy. Who is a cheater, a liar and a mean-spirited fool who likes to devalue people
In other words:a bully.

Maybe thats because he has few blustery antagonists nipping at his heels. He circumvented the critics, the mere semblance of protection and fairness by cheating

For Cortines, the bluster of AJ Duffy was a perfect contrast. They operated much like WWWF .
I used to call the pair Punch and Judy. I did so we sarcasm , not realizing the public escapades kept the public invested n our schools instead of subverting them to the influence of propaganda or worse yet, hopelessness. Of course the fop and the windbag betrayed the " public and set teachers up to take a very long fall. . They both belong in prison , just like Deasy. And Broad. But I contend that Broad and Gates got more than they bargained for when they came to pick the carcass of LA's corrosive school system. It's just speculatipn but I have this idea that Cortines did enjoy sticking it to them. Pun? Intended.

No one knows our lady of lost angels' secrets better than Cortines. He knew about Berndt and Chapel, I bet, and without his ample skills as a diplomat and dictator, these things will continue to erupt as they already are. The Beau-dry building is like a triage unit in constant battle. It is one disaster after another.

Cortines ' gift was his ability to discern when to act and when not to act. He intuitively understands the district and manages the beast because there is no taming a creature like this. So Cortines seduced the media, the civic minded sorts, the cronies, the contractors, the vendors. It was tenuous, costly, but Cortines kept a lid on things..
I hate to say it but I kinda miss old Punch and Judy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rise ! Take back your schools!


Please consider signing these petitions for Ramon Cortines High School a VAPA school where the students may not have art classes much less access to resources for building an arts based career. Their teachers are being laid off in record numbers, leaving this school and hundreds of others understaffed. In light of the fact that Cortines is a culprit in the corruption that lead to this, it seems unfair to force students to accept the burden of his name on top of his misdeeds which have costs students and our community dearly. Note that these students and the community had been promised that they would get to name the unique architectural albatross, then Monica Garcia swooped in and intervened on behalf of Cortines rather than the people she was elected by to serve the best interests of schools and students. Again!
Please recall this wench and throw her in a dungeon where she belongs.

Bullies should not be tolerated, much less have schools named after them.

What do you think will make schools better?



Thursday, May 24, 2012

Busy Body Broad: Bully, Bully...

Now Ironically Named Ramon Cortines HS, this monstrosity was thrust into being by Busy Body Eli Broad in 2009
When MOCA found itself in financial trouble last year, Eli Broad was one of the first to offer up assistance. Now, the LA-based philanthropist has committed to contribute almost half a million dollars to help arts programs in public New York, according to the LA Times.
Broad is giving $425,000 to the Julliard School to help pay for "dozens of public school students to receive up to four years of free musical training." Seeing programs cut tugged at Broad's heartstrings, which inspired him to reach out with the financial aid. But many are wondering why Broad didn't do the same in his home city of Los Angeles instead of--or in addition to--helping kids in NYC. Part of the problem is that Broad "lacks confidence" in LAUSD non-charter schools, like the specialty arts high school due to open next school year in Downtown, "even though it still lacks an executive director, a permanent principal, a staff and an arts curriculum."
Broad has long been on board with the idea of the LAUSD creating a state-of-the-art arts school, but now thinks its management should be turned over to a non-profit organization, and that the opening be delayed at least a year so that the existing problems, and important vacancies, can be seen to. The wealthy patron of arts believes that if a school like this were well-run, it would find plenty of investors, including himself. LAUSD officials, in the meantime, are prepping for the fall opening of Central LA Area High School No. 9 and are not willing to relinquish control of the project.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Miramonte Unbound

I was at the Miramonte protest a couple weeks ago. In in fact, David Garcia and I brought the media with us when I found out those teachers were planning the event by way of a tweet. Now, I am pretty rabid about LAUSD news, so it surprised me the protest escaped my notice until the day before. I went Not a blurt. I googled. Nope. WTF? UTLA was following orders. We may be members who paid our dues but Deasy is the boss and those UTLA officers are not risking those close to $200k saleries on some teachers. You cannot imagine the frustration of elected school reps or the fear of the teachers they try like hell to defend, but can't because there is no standard of evidence, no esculpatory offers, no deference to the codes nor contract. No interest in truth, much less justice. There is no freaking due process. Like everything from the Ethics office to latest lawsuits about teacher evaluation and tenure (scams like VAM concoted by Eli Broad and Gates) its all about appearences.
And UTLA cannot even keep these up, Deasy's profound path of destruction leaves no doubt that our union cannot think fast enough to defend their lack of defense when we need them most.
Little did Marimonte teachhers know nor do they know the consternation they caused when they decided to be heard despite the unconstituanal gag order--shortly before the teachers were housed, Sheriff Baca stated that Deasy had gagged many employees, effectively interfering with a police investigation (felony!!!)and it stands to reason, Miramonte teachers were removed from the school despite the proetests of students and parents so they could be debriefed and intimidated. Deasy needs them to keep their mouths shut because LAUSD not only pampers pervs by breaking the law so they keep credentals, hiding documentation of charges against them and gives them letters of recommendation on top of substansial cash prizes, it also goes after whistle blowers with ruthess reprisals ( I am one of many who knows this too well).
So these ES teachers politely waited until they were told they had to apply for their jobs again if they wanted to return to MES I must tell you that it is a testimonial of their dedication that they should want to return at all. MES is in a very bleak section of LA where there are no starbucks or Targets. Most people walk, but theres not many destinations beyond the schools, delapitated jouses and sqallid apartment buildings. Mostly there are liquor stores, many closed and all featuring clerks tucked behind bullet proof glass as they sell cans of malt liquor, blunt raps and marked up candy to little rascals on the way to and from school.
Most folks wouldnt drive through this part of town much  less work there. But teachers are not most people. However, given the demographic its difficult to believe teachers would apply for these positions again given Deasy's obsession with data driven evaluations and testing drills. But all one has to do is see what I did at Agustus Hawkins HS, know what I know and they'll understand the staff's outrage. The parents and children were there and I am sure they are why the teachers defied UTLA's scare tactics and went out to address the press as eloquently as they did.
The day before, I ad htweeted the teachers who I do not know but expected to be wary. They were not studying differentiation or creating lessons--- like all rubber room inmates they were either bored, bitching or focused on something that wasn't related to school at all, least not as Deasy explained their exile. Many work on new degrees since housed teachers have no teaching career outside of LAUSD once housed. A few learn new languages, study the Bible (as if prayer will help), read novels, sleep, write memoirs, plan their revenge and apparently a lot of them tweet.

As for LAUSD and Deasy's announcement about them being cleared, there is no record of an investigation into charges made against teachers. Why bother? It's the suits' soverign state, a state of dubious grace , where the rules may be committed to paper but no one is committed to the rules. No one is even vaguely familiar with them until someone says, ummm hey, you can't do that! But someone is wrong. The rules are arbitrary in Orwellian contexts. All of us, it it is asserted, are equal, but some of us are more equal than others. John Deasy can break the laws at will. That he violated codes and state laws at the expense of victims, the children, their parents and teachers at Marimonte to protect Mark Berndt and other creeps then twisted it into an excuse to illegally fire innocent teachers is especially egregious. In fact a story was planted in the news today about Miramonte teachers (females) delivering fresh meat to Mark Berndt as if they were making sacrafices to an angry volcano. These teachers did no such thing. If you believe there's cover up, youre right. But all it has to do with these teavhers is the possibility they'll betray the district and tell the truth. I do not believe these teachers could digest the truth much less conceal it.

 LAUSD is not unlike a bout of Stolkholm syndrome. You find yourself grateful you are not treated worse. Of course Deasy stirred up the stupid story to retalliate against those teachers' wanton but civil disobedience,You see Deasy has been caught in many lies,beginning with the one about his agenda as our dictator at the district.
As a graduate of the Broad Academy for Fear and Loathing in Education, Deasy has been programmed (along with 50% of the school site administrators who bear an eerie quality not unlike that of stepford wives and cult members)as a mercenary.
His mission is simple. Search and Destroy. As he explained in a recent interview, his interest is human capital....


Friday, May 18, 2012

Why We Should Not Support LAUSD's Hustle for More Funding

Mr. Deasy at a Miramonte Press Confrence

“The Governor’s May Revise assumes that voters will pass his tax initiative in November. This makes all the numbers in the budget dependent on an election that has not happened yet, and thus makes final local budget decisions, extremely difficult if not impossible. If, the measure passes, this will give schools some badly needed funds that have been promised over the past several years. If voters do not pass the initiative, the results are so catastrophic it is simply untenable. I am deeply concerned about the cash disbursements required to run the District. This issue is absent from the current budget conversation. This budget signals an increased reliance by the state on local districts to solve cash flow, which the state is deferring.\
Secondly, I am deeply concerned that yet another major program has been moved into the Prop. 98 Constitutional guarantees as a way to “fund” the mandated formula. This time, the supplemental Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) is switched from additional funding to Prop. 98 funding. We appreciate the state is trying to live within its means while protecting education, but it is painfully clear that schools are not going to get better until the state gets better fiscally. As a state, our youth will determine our future. They are the next innovators, small business owners and members of the 21st century workforce. It is vital that we invest in our future today and tomorrow.” POSTED BY SMF

Let's revise our attitudes about  Mr. Deasy first, using evidence and logic. Although this is one of the best blogs about LAUSD and operates with rare objectivity and prudence, I have to disagree with this plea because accepting what LAUSD is telling us is true is self- destructive at this point.

Deasy clearly take glee in two things: extortion of taxpayers and the willful, wanton abuse of teachers. I would not dare write this if I were not certain it is true and able to prove it. However, this mercenary is not the source of the problem..,, Deasy is merely a symptom. He is yet one more corrupt despot compromising our future, which, at this rate it appears there won't be much of unless we intervene.

 After squandering like a billion dollars on unseemly luxury in schools that should be safe, simple sanctuaries for the city's children instead of premature, opulent homage to the  likes of Ramon Cortines, whose name  Central Regent HS must suffer in the angles of architecture that could have been commissioned for form and function rather than the whims of EducRAT$ egos, LAUSD has deflected its crimes by demonizing and devastating teachers in the trenches--which is the ultimate treason but really not all that surprising. what astounds me and others aware of this lunacy is how willing everyone is to let these bullies get away with it.

 Have we really become so conditioned to the corruption of capitalism, so blinded by our deference to wealth that we are willing to defer to these criminals despite our primary advantage? Need I explain what this advantage is? Have we become so estranged from Democracy, so complicit in our own downfall that we are unwilling to risk creature comforts for the sake of the greater good? If so, I fear our apathy about the fate of our offspring is a sign of our impending extinction. We should be howling, congregating, and planning to revolt with civil disobedience against this system, which is a microcosm of the world as it devolves.
As Jim Morrison crooned in 1969: We want the world and we want it now. They got the money, we got the numbers...gonna win, yeah, we're taking over!

Consider the kick backs, the astronomical costs of construction and take a long hard look at Jordon HS or Banning HS.  Wouldn't it make more sense economically to repair these facilities? Wouldn't it be prudent to temper our spending with common sense? Of course it would, but apparently LAUSD and the board are unfamiliar with Ben Franklin's Timeless virtues.

Here' a simplified version:

Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation

Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversations

Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve

Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing

Industry: Lose not time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions

Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly

Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty

Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think you deserve

Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable

Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation

Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates

Oh man, could LAUSD you some serious remediation It's too bad the board agreed to all but close summer school. All of these people failed the Civics, now known as Principals of Democracy and Economics. The district administration has expanded 25% in the last ten years. Do you know how many teachers have lost their jobs?
 Now Deasy wants to hold art & music, thousands of jobs, instructional time and quality programs hostage to hustle a parcel tax out of a city full of beleaguered lost angels. How can he demand we improve our game as teachers when have overcrowded classes, no incentives for our students and an oppressive test driven curriculum?How  the Hell are we supposed to improve when even the schools in the suburbs are sinking under the weight of Deasy's despots?

 We don't.
And that's part of the insidious plot.
 My standardized testing conspiracy theories are not without merit and anyone who has deconstructed Value  Added rhetoric gets this much. I am inclined to believe these malignant forces underestimate the public intelligence and strength of characters, but one of my greatest weaknesses is my optimism.

Deasy is a disruptive, destructive disciple of a corporate driven model for e education. His bottom line is profits which requires the negation of human capitol(teachers) and full exploitation of his assets (students). These terms are his , not mine.  This is in direct opposition of the social justice model most of us advocate for public schools. Yet we have allowed Deasy to manipulate us with hyperbole and an aberration in social attitudes about teachers, who are, in other cultures, honored as modest yet powerful vehicles who lead the way to social evolution and psychological enlightenment. I don't want to suggest teachers aren't worthy of scrutiny or the criticism they are receiving up to a point.

 We have dropped the ball, in part, because our unions have coddled us into complacency. By abandoning us, by betraying us, our union has set us up, but we followed like lemmings when Duffy said strike about non issues and now that we are really facing outrageous concessions, defamation, professional disaster and worst of all our students' imminent ruin, we find ourselves impotent and scapegoated for the sins of suits who couldn't cut it in the classroom and have no business earning obscene salaries while they rape and pillage our schools.

When we don't all step up with donations like his buddies, the tax dodging philanthropists who are hell bent on privatizing but enjoying public concessions in the belabored process, Deasy trots out preschools and adult ed. for a public execution.
 It's like he's lined all there is that is worthwhile up single file to a guillotine and made us an offer we cant refuse. We  are so unnerved by his mistreatment of teachers, disdain for the law and hypocrisy that his deceitfulness is only overshadowed by his criminal indifference  to the welfare of our children.  No wonder the public cannot keep up beyond the daily headlines that announce another teacher has been violating its trust as well as the innocence of the young.

 If you need proof of this return  to Miramonte stories and ask yourself what kind of human being resists telling parents that their children may have possibly been violated, knowing full well these little kids could have been infected with STDs, probably suffering psychically as well...and when caught blames his silence on a police procedure that could not exist? Of course, he then got blindsided by the truth in how he handled the dismissal of Mark Berndt. Breaking the law to protect Berndt's credential and negotiating with child molesters in general, who he famously mentions in a retort to a FTA rep's concerns about due process: " Well, I guess I would have to ask you how much due process does a child molester need?" Deasy affords pervs plenty of kindness in an LAUSD tradition that protects the district from liability.  It's truly perverse, but you can easily check it against this story and dozens more. 

Meanwhile, Deasy has realized a long standing dream of this district by obliterating state codes and usurping the CBA with UTLA's blessings. Now teachers aren\ being fired on a whim and for nothing. Well, besides being experienced well- educated professionals. This is an effect of a business model for education, t will save money, but one questions what is and will the money spent on?
Correct me if I am mistaken, but isn't it supposed to be for education?
What education?

 The way Deasy is slicing and dicing it isn't much more than institutionalized day care. No, I take that back---daycare would encourage inquiry, joyful learning rather than drill for tests that are making Deasy and his friends wealthier yet as they destroy teachers' lives and deprive students of their future. I for one am not funding that. I say we stop letting children concede to tests and we refuse to pay our taxes until LAUSD is audited, investigated, and possibly indicted for its crimes against our schools and community.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How To Tell if Our District is Infected by the Broad Virus

Apr 20, 2011 16
Comments ›› leoniehaimson This was originally posted on seattleducation2011. For more information see:
A Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s training programs and education policies by Parents Across America  (or as a pdf factsheet.)
Chicago has just learned that it will inherit Rochester, New York’s controversial and unpopular school superintendent, Jean-Claude Brizard (Broad Superintendent’s Academy “Class of 2007″).
 Those of us who have experienced the “leadership” of  L.A. billionaire Eli Broad’s trained superintendents send Chicago our condolences. We have been there, done that, with scars to show for it, and nothing in the way of real academic or positive gains for our schools and kids. In fact, the Broad brand has been seriously tarnished lately, to the point where it really should be considered a liability rather than an asset. Here are just a few examples of Broad superintendents who have been ousted or left their districts in a cloud of controversy:  LaVonne Sheffield
(Broad Superintendents Academy “Class of 2002″ – resigned), Rockford, Ill.;  Maria Goodloe-Johnson (Broad “Class of 2003″ - fired), Seattle, Wa.; Matthew H. Malone (Broad “Class of 2003″ – resigned) former superintendent of Swampscott, MA; Deborah Sims (Broad “Class of 2005″- resigned), Antioch, CA. Meanwhile,  Detroit can’t seem to shake its power-hungry Emergency Financial Manager Bob Bobb (Broad Academy “Class of 2005″) whose illegal control of the Detroit School District was stopped in court, but has been recently ratified by a law signed by extremist Republican Governor Rick Snyder.
And now Brizard of Rochester is going to bring his brand of Broad magic to Chicago.  What’s striking is the similarity of the reigns of terror and error of these Broad ‘graduates.’ Disturbingly so, in fact. Many of the above earned No Confidence votes from their district’s teachers, and from parents too. All meted out a top-down dictatorial approach. Most alienated parents. Many closed schools. A number had questionable audits on their watch. More than one had false or questionable data to support their reforms. All commanded large salaries with perqs, while at the same time slashing services for kids and closing schools in the name of financial scarcity. A number of them avoided informing the elected school board of their plans or actively withheld information from them, effectively bypassing democracy. Scandal, controversy, animosity followed them all, inevitably out the door. If this trend continues,  Brizard’s tenure in Chicago will likely be short-lived too. But he still could do some serious damage while he’s there. So, heads-up, Chicago. To help our fellow school districts throughout the nation, here is a guide to diagnose whether your school district has come under the influence of the Broad Foundation (and what you can do about it). How to tell if your School District is Infected by the Broad Virus Schools in your district are suddenly closed. Even top-performing schools, alternative schools, schools for the gifted, are inexplicably and suddenly targeted for closure or mergers. Repetition of the phrases “the achievement gap” and “closing the achievement gap” in district documents and public statements. Repeated use of the terms “excellence” and “best practices” and “data-driven decisions.” (Coupled with a noted absence of any of the above.) The production of “data” that is false or cherry-picked, and then used to justify reforms. Power is centralized. Decision-making is top down. Local autonomy of schools is taken away. Principals are treated like pawns by the superintendent, relocated, rewarded and punished at will. Culture of fear of reprisal develops in which teachers, principals, staff, even parents feel afraid to speak up against the policies of the district or the superintendent. Ballooning of the central office at the same time superintendent  makes painful cuts to schools and classrooms. Sudden increase in number of paid outside consultants. Increase in the number of public schools turned into privately-run charters. Weak math text adopted (most likely Everyday Math). Possibly weak language arts too, or Writer’s Workshop. District pushes to standard the curriculum. Superintendent attempts to sidestep labor laws and union contracts. Teachers are no longer referred to as people, educators, colleagues, staff, or even “human resources,” but as “human capital.” A (self-anointed, politically connected) group called NCTQ comes to town a few months before your teachers’ contract is up for negotiation and writes a Mad Libs evaluation of your districts’ teachers (for about $14,000) that reaches the predetermined conclusion that teachers are lazy and need merit pay.
["The (NAME OF CITY) School District has too many (NEGATIVE ADJ) teachers. Therefore they need a new (POSITIVE ADJ.) data-based evaluation system tied to test scores…”] The district leadership declares that the single most significant problem in the district is suddenly: teachers! Teachers are no longer expected to be creative, passionate, inspired, but merely “effective.” Superintendent lays off teachers for questionable reasons. Excessive amounts of testing introduced and imposed on your kids. Teach for America, Inc., novices are suddenly brought into the district, despite no shortage of fully qualified teachers. The district hires a number of “Broad Residents” at about $90,000 apiece, also trained by the Broad Foundation, who are placed in strategically important positions like overseeing the test that is used to evaluate teachers or school report cards. They in turn provide — or fabricate — data that support the superintendent’s ed reform agenda (factual accuracy not required). Strange data appears that seems to contradict what you know (gut level) to be true about your own district. There is a strange sense of sabotage going on. You start to feel you are trapped in the nightmarish Book Five of the Harry Potter series and the evilly vindictive Dolores Umbridge is running your school district. (See above photo; Dolores Umbridge , Broad class of ?) Seek centaurs and Forbidden Forest immediately! Superintendent behaves as if s/he is beyond reproach. Superintendent reads Blackberry (Goodloe-Johnson, also see comments ) or sends texts (Brizard, see comments) while parents and teachers are giving public testimony at school board meetings, blatantly ignoring public input. A rash of Astroturf groups appear claiming to represent “the community” or “parents” and all advocate for the exact same corporate ed reforms that your superintendent supports — merit pay, standardized testing, charter schools, alternative credentialing for teachers. Of course, none of these are genuine grassroots community organizations. Or, existing groups suddenly become fervidly in favor of teacher bashing, merit pay or charter schools.
Don’t be surprised to find that these groups may have received grant money from the corporate ed reform foundations like Gates or Broad. The superintendent receives the highest salary ever paid to a superintendent in your town’s history (plus benefits and car allowance) – possibly more than your mayor or governor — and the community is told “that is the national, competitive rate for a city of this size.”
Your school board starts to show signs of Stockholm Syndrome. They vote in lockstep with the superintendent. Apparently lobotomized by periodic “school board retreat/Broad training” sessions headed by someone from Broad, your school board stops listening to parents and starts to treat them as the enemy. (If you still have a school board, that is — Broad ideally prefers no pesky democratically elected representatives to get in the way of their supts and agendas.) Superintendent bypasses school board entirely and keeps them out of the loop on significant or all issues. School board candidates receive unprecedented amounts of campaign money from business interests. Annual superintendent evaluation is overseen by a fellow name Tom Payzant. Stand for Children appears in towns and claims to be grassroots. (It is actually based in Portland, Ore., and is funded by the Gates Foundation.) It may invite superintendent to be keynote speaker at a political fundraising event. It will likely lobby your state government for corporate ed reform laws. Grants appear from the Broad and Gates foundations in support of the superintendent, and her/his “Strategic Plan.” The Gates Foundation gives your district grants for technical things related to STEM and/or teacher “effectiveness” or studies on charter schools. Local newspaper fails to report on much of this. Local newspaper never mentions the words “Broad Foundation.” Broad and Gates Foundations give money to local public radio stations which in turn become strangely silent about the presence and influence of the Broad and Gates Foundation in your school district. THE CURE for Broad Virus: Parents. Blogs. Sharing information. Vote your school board out of office. Vote your mayor out of office if s/he is complicit. Boycott or opt out of tests. Go national and join Parents Across America. Follow the money. Question the data – especially if it produced by someone affiliated with the Broad or Gates Foundations or their favored consultants (McKinsey, Strategies 360, NCTQ, or their own strategically placed Broad Residents). Alert the media again and again (they will ignore you at first). Protest, stage rallies, circulate petitions. Connect and daylight the dots. – Sue Peters Comments JEFF MOSHER says: MAY 3, 2011 AT 1:51 PM I am a Parent from Peoria high school in Peoria illinois and we believe our School Board is infected with poor and mislead super intendant. Dr. Grwenita Lathan. Please help! Reply TWOTEACHERS says: MAY 8, 2011 AT 8:08 AM The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in Charlotte, NC is definitely under this spell. There is NO DOUBT about it. Superintdent Peter Gorman was a Broad graduate and is now training Anthony Tata of Raleigh Public Schools in Wade County. Reply KC IN CHARLOTTE says: MAY 8, 2011 AT 1:46 PM More of the insidious “corporatization” of America. More of the uberwealthy elitist extremists trying to cram their agendas down the throats of middle class Americans, asleep at the wheel I’m afraid. Interesting that Bill Gates, a non product of public school education, has taken such an interest here. A kid of privilege, prep school educated, Harvard grad… started his empire initially through luck and chance and later built his wealth into a fortune through monopolistic practices. I certainly don’t want my kids modeled after him. If in America, a kid needs a corporate icon to aspire to, I’d put my money on someone like Steve Jobs. Middle class self starter who DID go through the public school system. A perpetual innovator, not perfect but with the kind of intellect and entrepreneurial abilities that are worth pointing out to your child…. Steve, we need a Jobs Foundation now! Reply OZYMANDIAS says: MAY 11, 2011 AT 1:42 AM Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools certainly fits a significant number of Broad virus symptoms! Thank you for this great article! Reply SUSAN O says: MAY 14, 2011 AT 12:24 AM This is a frighteningly accurate description of exactly what is happening here in Providence. Reply RI TEACHER says: JUNE 3, 2011 AT 5:23 PM This is the entire state of Rhode Island under Deb Gist (Broad Grad). Reply YOUBOOK says: JUNE 15, 2011 AT 12:17 AM Welcome to Prince George’s County, Maryland – we currently have our second Broad Academy Superintendent. Reply LISA says: JUNE 16, 2011 AT 8:52 PM Wow, Los Angeles, with Broadite Superintendent John Deasy, is ground zero for this. We have all the symptoms, including Teach for America Vista Corps teachers bing paid $16,000 a year and highly paid consultants making six figures. We need to develop a vaccine and share it. Reply STEPHEN LONDON says: JUNE 21, 2011 AT 8:11 PM You left out two symptoms that have come to the fore in LAUSD, where I have taught for 17 years. First, here in ground zero land for Eli Broad’s benevolent interventions, LA public school students are now being bribed into making an effort on their otherwise irrelevant annual CST bubble test frenzy weeks by having their grades automatically raised if they go up in a test category. Teachers who resist this unwarranted grade inflation are harassed into compliance. Second, a mysterious decree appears ordering all teachers of all grades to allow homework to count for no more than ten percent of students’ grades, because achievement marks, like the value of teachers, should reflect bubble test performance, not year round effort or the actual application of skills.

Reply ARE CITY SCHOOLS REALLY THAT BAD? - PAGE 4 - CITY-DATA FORUM says: JULY 21, 2011 AT 12:08 PM [...] Make up your own mind. THE BROAD REPORT: The "Broad Effect"…e-broad-virus/ [...] Reply CARMEN G. AGUILAR says: SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 AT 11:18 PM Hello All! I retired from teaching 2nd grade in 2010. After reading the article, it is obvious that Chicago Public Schools are”infected” , and are suffering from the same” disease”: Testing is the mandate, Arts are not needed, teachers have to prove they are “effective”, children do not need recreation time, brain wash students to be the future”cheap labores of the future”. I am talking about the schools that are located in the ghetto and in the poor neighborhoods of Chicago.
Today I visited my former school, that I adore: the children, the parents, the teachers! And I found out that many of the classes I wanted to visit and say Hello! were TAKEN A TEST! Already!! September 20!!! What we have to do is RESIST! MAKE OUR VOICES BE HEARD! Parents, students, teachers, RESIST! Find ways to work together for our children.
Reply ELI BROAD'S RETURN ON INVESTMENT | GEEK PALAVER says: OCTOBER 31, 2011 AT 5:02 AM [...] about The Broad Foundation’s “commitment” to education, take a look at “How to Tell if your School District is Infected by the Broad Virus.” You might also consider following, “The Broad [...]
Reply RENE DIEDRICH says: DECEMBER 9, 2011 AT 11:33 PM In LA they union has surrendered to this . They literally slipped Deasy in after creating the Chaos thru layoffs and RIFs and it is incredibly scary with witch hunts, we Ar stressed, we are struggling, but teachers are on their own. They spread these myths about tenure and propaganda about who is at fault for this mess. Like most teachers in the hood I did my job and then some. I have excellent evaluations, respectable scores, and was popular with the kids who caught on before me about the trap I was in. I abide my duty to blow the whistle on abuse and noncompliance. They made me an example of what happens to teachers who advocate for students instead of them. These people are ruthless. They put me in teacher jail to wait l finally they are about to fire me . There is no sense in defending myself. They own the school board who won’t look at teachers evidence at all. It is a done deal. They have ruined my life and others.’ they will not stop until we make them. Surely we can start a petition at change. Com.
Reply SAVING MT. GAP: WARDYNSKI REFUSES TO SHOW HIS WORK » » GEEK PALAVERGEEK PALAVER says: MARCH 24, 2012 AT 2:25 PM [...] an article about what happens to your school district when it is invaded by “The Broad Virus” making the rounds this week. It’s an excellent article that I’ve recommended
 [...] Reply LARRY COXON says: MARCH 26, 2012 AT 9:35 PM Hello! We have a consulting firm named “District Management Council, LLC” out of Boston, MA, in our small district of Granby, CT. One of their subsidiaries, “District & Community Partners,” is working with our superintendent to enact a special education “audit,” and who knows what else. (Teacher Evaluation Plan revamping for sure). This subsidiary is run by Nathan Levenson, formerly of Arlington, MA. I am trying to find out all I can about this consulting company. We are a small district of only 5 schools in total, so I doubt we would see the school closings described with the Broad Foundation. But, much of the rest seems to be happening. Is this consulting firm a concern? If so, where can I go to find out all I can? Thank you!!
Reply JANICE HARVEY says: APRIL 14, 2012 AT 3:24 AM Worcester MA has been infected (Boone 2004) This is like a bad Twilight Zone episode Reply Leave a Reply Name (required) Email (not be published) (required) Website

Friday, May 11, 2012

Aftermath of an angry comment

"Rene...I have a plane You teachers STOP PASSING STUDENTS TO THE NEXT GRADE LEVEL IF THEY DO NOT QUALIFY FOR ADVISEMENT! If YOU the teachers in the classroom continue this process of advancing this state’s K -12 students to the next grade level knowing they do not meet standards, we will continue

oh joy!
With all due respect , your  plane (sic)  is profoundly flawed for many reasons. First of all many primary and middle schools use social promotion , which is indeed a huge element in our current struggle to educate HS kids. It effects students'  attitude about learning   Inconsistency coupled with violations in logic undermine the young minds' ability to adapt  because it is unfamiliar with any viable expectations.  Unfortunately WE teachers are at the bottom of a brutal  food chain. Believe me we'd adopt a more practical approach if we called this . We don't. We have precious little influence, but I would not use my influence if I had any, to promote the failure of students.  We will give them a grade objectively and fairly, which means Will not grade punitively or with pity; Won't compromise with uniform standards nor conform to rigid , over simplified logic when addressing this great responsibility.  Parents have much more power. If you want to help Teacher's help student's, you must do your homework. ...not to worry. \Yes, your rhetoric is phallacious , I don't grade conventions or spelling in in the exposition. Not this early anyway. Lucky you.

Passion is enough to promote you with prejudice.  Consider the teacher you most remember.  See? A teacher follows you through life sometimes. I don't want to  be the one that ruined it by derailing graduation or self confidence. My job is to see students succeed.  I fail of they do. But not always. I keep thinking how the F's I have given belong to former students, now women who said the Fwas catalyst in their lives,. One is a great singe/songwriter in ascent ,the other writes.  I held one to the highest standards --she was flattered.  People are not cogs or robots.  They aren't predictable or easy program.  I despise them in general, but love them in particular.
People have 5 different styles of learning. It  seems these bleed into each other too; I must identify learning disabilities LAUSD ignores and accommodate them on my own. I' m spread very thin.  On the verge of going blind. All those essays on global warming take a toll! Many many teachers are overwhelmed but tireless. Committed to kids that are not our own but we call them my kids , our kids. Are they arent  your kids?

So... . We are to Blame ? Really...for a top heavy overpaid educracy usurped by vulture philanthropy and white chalk crime spree. 

Contrary to pirates for privatizing lurid propaganda about complacent, apathetic... teachers who  violate students' rights and rape them during lunch breaks because we have our union entitlement yet , teachers cannot fail students without risking serious reprisals. When  kids get to MS they figure out they can do anything and do nothing . In other words: There are no consequences for bad behavior nor a risk of failing. Have you spent any time in a middle school? It's like the  lord of the flies . Worse.  These kids are bouncing off the walls between sugar, hormones, emotional anguish, fear, and raw rage that can become violent in a heartbeat.

Most teachers run from those schools unless  they know the turf. I saw very bad teachers in ms & also saw the best.  Either way they have nothing to do with with grading policy. By the time HS gets them, they are calmer but so lazy and distracted a lot don't realize the grades count .  Until its too late. Each guidance counselor juggle close to 400 students. They program and supervise .  My HS had less than 100 and the same number of guidance counselors in LAUSD HS serving 3500 ( in school designed to hold 2000  Who puts 2000 teens in one place, never mind 3590 expected to share half the restrooms assigned to 2000?  Kids are disoriented in the chaos. 

 They can fail. They do fail.  A few do so willfully.  Sometimes these bad students are very smart.  A lot  are auto didactic. They store great knowledge  but its  a rather disjointed intellect. Formidable.  But rudderless.  Do I cut slack? I do. If a kid deserves it.  Grading kids is a profound responsibility . I wrestle within schools where groups are so diverse we  can't employ the same standards in measuring success. Unlike Mr.Deasy, who prefers data and uniform. To procure success kids must write. I must read what kids write. It's an incredibly personal exchange. I do personalize, differentiate and create formative assessments that allow me to serve an indivdual's needs.
People underestimate the  difficulty of engaging student interests Look at Deasy's use of AP courses next Fall Yes, somehow herding socially promoted kids into college level courses and ordering them to be ready for UCLA in a few years will do the trick;

Imposing his values on students, judging them by his narrow standards and misidentifying the issues and the desired outcome, Deasy is more clueless than students. ore one thing colleges are only set up to accept 30%of graduates. Notably we are not one size fits all/ We all used to take aptitude tests and there were work study programs for kids who prefer work to books--- lies we tell kids about making money status and education loans educated, hard working professionals, teachers are being fired and humiliated by this  pointy man who hates constitution when it is not working in his favor. He deals a villainous propensity for hyperbole. These kids know education betrayed its most ardent  advocate it nationals the teachers no longer enjoy the same job security as campus cop nor do we earn what longshoremen do with a high school diploma, Of course you have to get the card top be permitted entry. That's
always the way of things. According to Deasy college is an essential goal.
Its funny  I keep reading how Sup.D purchased his A PhD Philosophy (education)....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Modern School: LAUSD’s Rubber Room for Victims of Abuse Hysteria

Modern School: LAUSD’s Rubber Room for Victims of Abuse Hysteria

Rhapsodic Reflections From Bartlby Project

©2008 by John Taylor Gatto.
This piece may be circulated without cost on the Internet, but only if used uncut and cost-free. The Bartleby Project is taken from Mr. Gatto's book, Weapons of Mass Instruction, New Society Publishers 2008.
If you read this to the end, you'll discover that I'm inviting you to join a real conspiracy, call it an open conspiracy, with real consequences on millions of real lives. I know that sounds megalomaniacal, but be patient. If we pull this off, a great many will bless us, although the school industry few will curse us. This is about a project to destroy the standardized testing industry, one in which you, personally, will be an independent unit commander. This adventure is called "The Bartleby Project, for reasons you'll learn in just a little while. And keep in mind as you read, this has nothing to do with test reform. It's about test destruction.
We've all taken these tests. After graduation few of us think back on this ugly phenomenon unless we have little ones of our own being tested, and have to live through the agony of watching them stumble. We lose touch with the rituals of testing because, upon entering adult life, we inevitably discover that the information these glorified jigsaw puzzles generates is unreliable, and very misleading—absolutely nobody ever asks after the data. We see that those who test well are more often circus dogs than leaders of the future.
Nothing inside the little red schoolhouse does more personal and social damage than the numbers and rank order these tests hang around the necks of the young. Although the scores correlate with absolutely nothing of real value, the harm they cause is real enough: such assessments are a crowning glory of the social engineers who seized final control of institutional schooling during the presidency o Franklin Roosevelt. They constitute a matchless weapon of social control, wreaking havoc on winners and losers alike. Standardized testing is the tail wagging the entire monster of forced institutional schooling.
The frequent ceremonies of useless testing—preparation, administration, recovery—convert forced schooling into a travesty of what education should be; they drain hundreds of millions of days yearly from what might otherwise be productive pursuits; they divert tens of billions of cash resources into private pockets. The next effect of standardized testing is to reduce our national wealth in future generations, by suffocating imagination and intellect, while enhancing wealth for a few in the present. This occurs as a byproduct of "scientifically" ranking the tested so they can be, supposedly, classified efficiently as human resources. I hope the chapters of this book have done some damage to these assumptions, enough to recruit you as a leader in The Bartleby Project. If you show the way, others will follow.
We've reached a point in North America where it isn't enough to claim moral loftiness by merely denouncing them or muttering about them in books and essays which only true believers read. Standardized testing, which has always been about standardization and never about quality standards, must no longer be debated, but brutally and finally destroyed if schooling is ever again to take up a mission of intellect and character enhancement. And so, as I told you earlier, you'll be invited to lead—not join, but lead—a plan to cut the testing empire off at the knees; a plan to rip its heart out swiftly and cheaply. An incidental byproduct of the Bartleby Project will be to turn the men and women who create and supervise these murderous exercises into pariahs, but that isn't the point.
No organization will be required to oversee This simple plan—or, rather, thousands of organizations will be; all local, all uncoordinated. Otherwise , we will be certain to be co-opted, marginalized, corrupted—as all reform organizations become in time: and one as powerful as the Bartleby concept would be quickly subjected to sabotage were it centralized. To make this work—and soon you'll know what it looks like specifically—requires exactly the kind of courage it took to sledgehammer the first chunks out of the Berlin Wall, a currency in ready abundance among teenagers—the rightful leaders. I'll briefly mount a case why such a project is needed and then introduce you to its spiritual godfather, Bartleby the Scrivener.
On May 8, 2008, the New York Sun reported that despite legal mandates which require physical education be offered every school day, only one kid out of every twenty-five received even the legal minimum of 24 minutes a day. The New York City comptroller was quoted by the Sun, saying that physical training was a major concern of parents. But then, parents have had no significant voice in school for over a century. The story gets even darker than you realize.
Quietly, over the past decade, a national epidemic of obesity and diabetes has appeared in children as young as five. The connections between food, lack of exercise, and these twin plagues have been recognized for a long time. Diabetes is the principal cause of blindness and amputations in the US, and obesity is the leading cause of heart disease and self-loathing. That the non-fat are revolted by the fat, and discriminate heavily against them should not be a mystery, even to the stupid. Fat kids are punished cruelly in classrooms and on the playground.
In the face of these sobering facts, that thousands of schools still serve familiar fast food—and also non-proprietary fatty foods like liverwurst and bologna as nutrition—should have already caused you to realize that school is literally a risk to the mental and physical health of the young. Coupled with the curious legal tradition which makes serious lawsuits against school-generated human damage impossible, I hope you will try to convince yourself that behind the daily noise and squalor, a game is afoot in this institution which has little to do with popular myth. Standardizing minds is a big part of that game.
In the news story cited, a representative of New York City's Board of Education declares, "We're beginning to realize student health is a real core subject area." Think about that The city has had a hundred year near-monopoly over children's daily lives and it's only beginning to realize that health is important? Where is evidence of that realization? Don't all schools still demand physical confinement in chairs as a necessary concomitant of learning?
When lack of exercise has clearly been figured as a main road to diabetes and obesity, and both conditions are well-understood to lead to blindness, amputations, heart disease, and self-hatred, how can law only provide 24 minutes of exercise a day, and be so poorly enforced that only one in twenty-five gets even that? Doesn't that tell you something essential about the managers of schooling? At the very least, that 96 percent of all schools in New York City break the law with impunity in a matter threatening the health of students. What makes it even more ominous is that school officials are known for and wide for lacking independent judgment and courage in the face of bureaucratic superiors; but something in this particular matter must give them confidence that they won't be held personally liable.
You must face the fact that an outlaw ethic runs throughout institutional schooling. It's well-hidden inside ugly buildings, masked by dull people, mindless drills, and the boring nature of almost everything associated with schools, but make no mistake—under orders from somewhere, this institution is perfectly capable of lying about life-and-death matters, so how much more readily about standardized testing?
If the bizarre agenda of official schooling allows its representatives to tell the press that after a hundred years they're beginning to learn what Plato and Aristotle wrote eloquently about thousands of years ago, and that privileged sanctuaries like Eton, Harrow, Groton, and St. Pauls have practiced since their inception, that physical health depends upon movement, you should be reluctant to assign credibility to any school declaration. Under the right pressure from somewhere, schools can easily be brought to act against the best interests of students or faculty.
This is what has happened with standardized testing, post WWII. Some teachers know, and most all teachers feel it in their bones, that the testing rituals cause damage. But human nature being what it is, only a few dare resist, and these are always eventually discovered and punished.
I began my own schooling in 1940 in the gritty industrial section of Pittsburgh ironically named "Swiss-vale," continued it for the most part in the equally gritty industrial exurb, Monongahela, during WWII and its aftermath, and concluded my time, served forcibly, in the green hills of western Pennsylvania, very near where Colonel Washington's late-night killing of French officer Jumonville precipitated the French and Indian War (Washington didn't do the killing himself, but he took the heat).
As compensation for confinement, schools in those days were generally places of visible morality, powerfully egalitarian, and often strongly intellectual under the rough manners of the classroom. Faculties were always local, which meant among other things that each school employee had a local reputation as a neighbor and citizen; they existed as people as well as abstract functions. Curriculum prepared far away, and standardized testing, was hardly in evidence even at the end of the school sequence for me, in the 1950s. Each classroom at my high school, Uniontown High, was personalized to a degree which would be considered dangerously eccentric today, and hardly tolerable.
And yet, boys and girls schooled that way had just finished ruining the tightly schooled dictatorships of the planet. We boasted often to ourselves, teenagers of the 1940s and 1950s, that unlike those unfortunate enough to live outside the US, we carried no identification papers, feared no secret police. Compared to the exotic liberty of those days of my boyhood, American society of sixty years later smacks a bit too much of a police state for comfort. To imagine old ladies being patted down for explosives at airports, or the IRS invasion of one's home, or the constant test rankings and dossiers of behavior managed through schooling; to imagine machinery purchased for home use spying on intimate choices and reporting those choices to stranger, would have been inconceivable in 1950.
A river of prosperity was lifting all boats in the US as I finished my own public schooling in 1953. My father was a cookie sales man for Nabisco, a man with no inheritance or trust fund, yet could cover my tuition at Cornell, own a new car, send my sister to college, pay for clarinet lessons for me and painting lessons for my sister, and put something aside for retirement. Schooling was considered important in those days, but never as very important. Too many unschooled people like my father and mother carried important responsibilities too well for pedagogical propaganda to end the reign of America's egalitarian ethic.
The downward spiral in school quality began in the 1950s with changes which went unnoticed. Schools were "rationalized" after the German fashion' increment by increment they were standardized from coast to coast. By 1963, standardized tests were a fixture, although very few extended them any credibility; they were thought of as a curious break from classroom routine, a break imposed for what reason nobody knew, or cared. Even in the 1950s, curriculum was being dumbed down, though not to the levels reached in later years. Teachers were increasingly carpet-baggers, from somewhere outside the community in which they taught. Once it had actually been a legal requirement to live within the political boundaries of the school district, just as it was for police, fire fighters, and other civil servants, but gradually families came to be seen as potential enemies of the "professional" staff; better to live far enough away they could be kept at arm's length.
Morality in schools was replaced with cold-blooded pragmatism. As Graham Greene has his police chief say, in Our Man in Havana, "We only torture people who expect to be torture." Ghetto kids were flunked and nearly flunked because that was their expectation; middle-class/upper-middle-class kids were given Cs, Bs and even As, because they and their parents wouldn't tolerate anything else.
School order came to depend upon maintaining good relations with the toughest bullies, covertly affirming their right to prey upon whiners and cry-babies (though never cry-babies from politically potent families). The intellectual dimension was removed from almost all classrooms as a matter of unwritten policy, and since test scores are independent of intellect, those teachers who tried to hold onto mental development as a goal, rather than rote memorization, actually penalized their students and themselves where test scores were the standard of accomplishment.
Horace Mann's ideal of common schooling was put to death after WWII; students were sharply divided from one another in rigid class divisions justified by standardized testing. Separation into winners and losers became the ruling dynamic.
By 1973, schools were big business. In small towns and cities across the land schoolteaching was now a lucrative occupation - with short hours, long vacations, paid medical care, and safe pensions; administrators earned the equivalent of local doctors, lawyers, and judges.
Eccentricity in classrooms was steeply on the wane, persecuted wherever it survived. Tracking was the order of the day, students being steered into narrower and narrower classifications supposedly based on standardized test scores. Plentiful exceptions existed, however, in the highest classifications of "gifted and talented," to accommodate the children of parents who might otherwise have disrupted the smooth operation of the bureaucracy.
But even in these top classifications, the curriculum was profoundly diminished from standards of the past. What was asked of prosperous children in the 1970s would have been standard for children of coal miners and steel workers in the 1940s and 1950s. Many theories abound for why this was so, but only one rings true to me: From WWII onwards it is extremely easy to trace the spread of a general belief in the upper realms of management and academy that most of the population was incurably feeble-minded, permanently stuck at a mental level of twelve or under. Sine efforts to change this were doomed to be futile, why undergo the expense of trying? Or to put a humane cast on the argument, which I once heard a junior high school principal expound at a public school board meeting: Why worry kids and parents with the stress of trying to do something they are biologically unable to achieve?
This was precisely the outlook Abraham Lincoln had ridiculed in 1859 (see Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life); precisely the outlook of Edward Thorndike, inventor of "educational psychology" at Columbia Teachers College; precisely the outlook of H. H. Goddard, chairman of the psychology department at Princeton; precisely the outlook of great private corporate foundations like Rockefeller and Carnegie; precisely the outlook of Charles Darwin and his first cousin, Francis Galton. You can find this point of view active in Plato, in John Calvin, in Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza, in Johann Fichte, and in so many other places it would take a long book to do justice to them.
As long as ordinary Americans like Ben Franklin's dad were in charge of educating their young, America escaped domination from the deadly assumptions of permanent inferiority—whether spiritual, intellectual, or biological—which provide the foundation for rigid social classes, by justifying them. As long as the crazy quilt of libertarian impulses found in the American bazaar prevailed, a period which takes us to the Civil War, America was a place of miracles for ordinary people through self-education. To a fractional degree it still is, thanks to tradition owing nothing to post-WWII government action; but only for those lucky enough to have families which dismiss the assumptions of forced schooling—and hence avoid damage by the weapons of mass instruction.
As the German Method, intended to convert independent Bartleby spirits into human resources, choked off easy escape routs, it wasn't only children who were hurt, but our national prospects. Our founding documents endowed common Americans with rights no government action could alienate, liberty foremost among them. The very label "school" makes a mockery of these rights. We are a worse nation for this radical betrayal visited upon us by generations of political managers masquerading as leaders. And we are a materially poorer nation, as well.
School's structure and algorithms constitute an engine like the little mill that ground salt in the famous fable—long ago it slipped away from anyone's conscious control. It is immune to reform. That's why it must be destroyed. But how?
We will start at the weakest link in the German school chain, the standardized tests which are despised by everyone, school personnel included. The recent past has given us two astonishing accomplishments of citizen action—no, make that three—which should lift your spirits as you prepare to ruin the testing empire—instances of impregnable social fortresses blown to pieces by disorganized, unbudgeted decisions of ordinary people. Call these examples "Bartleby Moments." Think of the ending of the Vietnam War, when young people filled the streets; think of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall; think of the swift dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The Bartleby Project

By the end of WWII, schooling had replaced education in the US, and shortly afterwards, standardized testing became the steel band holding the entire enterprise together. Test scores rather than accomplishment became the mark of excellence as early as 1960, and step by step the public was brought, through various forms of coercion including journalism, to believe that marks on a piece of paper were a fair and accurate proxy for human quality. As Alexander Solzhenitzyn, the Nobel Prize winning Russian author, said, in a Pravda article on September 18, 1988, entitled "How to Revitalize Russia:"
No road for the people [to recover from Communism] will ever be open unless the government completely gives up control over us or any aspect of our lives. It has led the country into an abyss and it does not know the way out.
Break the grip of official testing on students, parents and teachers, and we will have taken the logical first step in revitalizing education. But nobody should believe this step can be taken politically—too much money and power is involved to allow the necessary legislative action; the dynamics of our society tend toward the creation of public opinion, not any response to it. There is only one major exception to that rule: Taking to the streets. In the past half-century the US has witnessed successful citizen action many times: In the overthrow of the Jim Crow laws and attitudes; in the violent conclusion to the military action in Vietnam; in the dismissal of a sitting American president from office. In each of these instances the people led, and the government reluctantly followed. So it will be with standardized testing. The key to its elimination is buried inside a maddening short story published in 1853 by Herman Melville: "Bartleby the Scrivener."
I first encountered "Bartleby" as a senior at Uniontown High School, where I was unable to understand what it might possibly signify. As a freshman at Cornell I read it again, surrounded by friendly associates doing the same. None of us could figure out what the story meant to communicate, not even the class instructor.
Bartleby is a human photocopy machine in the days before electro-mechanical duplication, a low-paid, low-status position in law offices and businesses. One day, without warning or explanation, Bartleby begins to exercise free will—he decides which orders he will obey and which he will not. If not, he replies, "I would prefer not to." To an order to participate in a team-proofreading of a copy he's just made, he announces without dramatics, "I would prefer not to." To an order to pop around the corner to pick up mail at the post office, the same: "I would prefer not to." He offers no emotion, no enlargement on any refusal; he prefers not to explain himself. Otherwise, he works hard at copying.
That is, until one day he prefers not to do that, either. Ever again. Bartleby is done with copying. But not done with the office which employed him to copy! You see, without the boss' knowledge, he lives in the office, sleeping in it after others go home. He has no income sufficient for lodging. When asked to leave that office, and given what amounts to a generous severance pay for that age, he prefers not to leave - and not to take the severance. Eventually, Bartleby is taken to jail, where he prefers not to eat. In time, he sickens from starvation, and is buried in a pauper's grave.
The simple exercise of free will, without any hysterics, denunciations, or bombast, throws consternation into social machinery—free will contradicts the management principle. Refusing to allow yourself to be regarded as a "human resource" is more revolutionary than any revolution on record. After years of struggling with Bartleby, he finally taught me how to break the chains of German Method schooling. It took a half-century for me to understand the awesome instrument each of us has through free will to defeat Germanic schooling, and to destroy the adhesive which holds it together - standardized testing.
Signposts pointing our attention toward the Bartleby power within us are more common than we realize in the global imagination, as Joseph Campbell's splendid works on myth richly demonstrate (as do both Testaments of the Bible), but we needn't reach back very far to discover Thoreau's cornerstone essay on civil disobedience as a living spring in the American imagination, or Gandhi's spectacular defeat of the British Empire through "passive resistance" as bold evidence that as Graham Greene should have taught us by now, "they" would prefer to torture those who expect to be tortured.
Mass abstract testing, anonymously scored, is the torture centrifuge whirling away precious resources of time and money from productive use and routing it into the hands of testing magicians. It happens only because the tormented allow it. Here is the divide-and-conquer mechanism par excellence, the wizard-wand which establishes a bogus rank order among the schooled, inflicts prodigies of stress upon the unwary, causes suicides, family breakups, and grossly perverts the learning process - while producing no information of any genuine worth. Testing can't predict who will become the best surgeon, college professor, or taxicab driver; it predicts nothing which would impel any sane human being to enquire after these scores. Standardized testing is very good evidence our national leadership is bankrupt and has been so for a very long time. The two-party system has been unable to give us reliable leadership, its system of campaign finance almost guarantees we get managers, not leaders; I think Ralph Nader has correctly identified it as a single party with two heads—itself bankrupt.
I don't know what do do about that, but I do know how to bring the testing empire to an end, to rip out its heart and make its inventors, proponents, and practitioners into pariahs whose political allies will abandon them.
Let a group of young men and women, one fully aware that these tests add no value to individual lives or the social life of the majority, use the power of the internet to recruit other young people to refuse, quietly, to take these tests. No demonstrations, no mud-slinging, no adversarial politics—to simply write across the face of the tests placed in front of them, "I would prefer not to take this test." Let no hierarchy of anti-test management form; many should advise the project, but nobody should wrap themselves in the mantle of leadership. The best execution would not be uniform, but would take dozens of different shapes around the country. Like the congregational Church, there should be no attempt to organize national meetings, although national chatrooms, blogs, and mission-enhancing advisors of all political and philosophical stripes will be welcome. To the extent this project stays unorganized, it cannot help but succeed; to the extent "expert" leadership pre-empts it, it can be counted on to corrupt itself. Think Linux, not Microsoft. Everyone who signs on should get an equal credit, latecomers as well as pioneers. Unto this last should be the watchword.
I prefer not to. Let the statement be heard, at first erratically and then in an irresistible tide, in classrooms across the country. If only one in ten prefer not to, the press will scent an evergreen story and pick up the trail; the group preferring not to will grow like the snow ball anticipating the avalanche.
What of the ferocious campaign of intimidation which will be waged against the refuseniks? Retribution will be threatened, scapegoats will be targeted for public humiliation. Trust me, think Alice in Wonderland; the opposition will be a house of cards, the retribution an illusion. Will the refusers be denied admission to colleges? Don't be naive. College is a business before it's anything else; already a business starving for customers.
The Bartleby Project begins by inviting 60,000,000 American students, one by one, to peacefully refuse to take standardized tests or to participate in any preparation for these tests; it asks them to act because adults chained to institutions and corporations are unable to; because these tests pervert education, are disgracefully inaccurate, impose brutal stresses without reason, and actively encourage a class system which is poisoning the future of the nation.
The Bartleby Project should allow no compromise. That will be the second line of defense for management, a standard trick taught in political science seminars. Don't fall for it. Reject compromise. No need to explain why. No need to shout. May the spirit of the scrivener put steel in your backbone. Just say:
I would prefer not to take your test.

An old man's prayers will be with you

Monday, May 7, 2012

I prefer not to..

Dear Principal
Please do not force my son to run.
He has bronchitis & like every kid here,
he has astma. Together they could kill him.
Make him walk . No child of mine will race to the top.
Nick did not miss the test because he is sick or I spoil him.
Nor do I have on obligation to explain , but I will. I am a teacher.
Your test is too convenient: It's conformity engineered by men with OCD type greed who are here in our schools' systems to lower the value of human capital.
  Nick says hes getting harassed over there, but I doubt this is the case.
His middle name is not Brando for nothing. He is sick, no PE.
And we prefer not to take your tests.
We are Educators not Shepards.
You keep the school so quiet I know you're not a Broadie.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Revolt of the Cockroach People

This is a gonzo account of a teacher's efforts to protect students from one foul creature.
She no sooner abided the law when she stumbled across another. She pulled back the veil to find erself surrounded by a swarm of snakes, sociopathic, unjust and beyond imagination in their willingness to to do our children and us great harm.
Sure, she was aware of the corruption in a very peripheral sense and frustrated by it as she committed herself to the duty of educating working poor youth. It was true enough she left infernos in her wake and she reffered to her best intentions as her Joan-of-Arc Complex.,as they were always harsly punished. But she never wanted to moonlight as a mongoose. Yes, her friends mocked her for being bohemian, an anarchist and a do gooder . Of course her motives were not completely unselfish as tenured position as a teacher offers a fair salary, plenty of time off, health care benefits and work that is rewarding, despite its many challenges.
In abiding her court mandated duty to report a teacher who had endangered the life of two children, an unrepentent sadist with a hefty reputation for verbal and emotional abuse of students as well as colleagues, she found her self falling headlong into a Kafkaesque nightmare where cronyism has turned the district and union into a ratfactory. The depth of its depravity has frightened off many yet failed to be addressed by local, state and Federal Government.
LAUSD is presently enrobed in Broad - Gates brand of philanthropy, and with predictable ruthlessness they are acting with lawless contempt to cut teachers down to the quick, displacing , RiFting, dismissing, and destroying their lives to assure a solid profit margin.
Denying teachers and students civil liberties, due process and its own ethical codes concerning the fair and respectable treatment of others, LA's school system has been allowed to act with impunity far too long. Between the misguide government codes, a general lack of oversight and the public's despicable indifference to the plight of our children and this large community, LOAUSD has and will get away with murder.
LAUSD uses taxpayers money to assure no lawsuits are ever fruitful. No matter how strong your case may be , there is little hope of winning, as this blogger and teacher soon discovered when she embarked a journey not unlike Dante's . She has many Virgils, most cynical and melancholy. They tell her there is no honor, no justice, no triumphant moment that will define us as heroes. We will always be tarnished by the district's lies which fell upon us because we've paid dues , we've compromised, and we've been coddled into complacency. Teachers are like most people: they are cowards

Oscar Zeta Acosta, Proud Mexican Attorney and Activist

This blog is about a teacher's long strange trip through the district of the damned. It will be narrative, exposition, research, reportage, and editorial, but more than anything else, it is a call to action. The teacher, of course , is me. This is not about details of my case, which is much like others' ---this blog is about change, so be fore warned, my rant will runneth over.
We are confronting conformity with corruption, the loss of our constitutional rights, the annihilation of the middle class, the death of our American dreams. Your access to the truth has been thwarted to take all you own or are.
Journalists, Teachers and lawyers defend Democracy with the truth, which is, I admit, fluid. But we cannot offer the facets of truth when a fascist presence looms above ready to express disapproval that will devastate any human being who dares to defy it.
Civil disobedience will serve us well. We do not have power or cash--- we have numbers and what is righteous to justify rebellion. Oscar Zeta Acosta called class war the Revolt of the Cockroach People.

We could sure use Brown Buffalo now...