Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Elmo isn't Gramsci for kids and the mythical soft bigotry of low expectations

This short essay was originally published on The Daily Censored on August 11, 2011. It would seem that all of the old works on that site are gone. That's unfortunate because I published a lot of work there. I had a teaser here linking to it, a practice I stopped doing precisely because I've learned from harsh experience that websites die and all the content is lost (like my At The Chalkface works). I was able to track down a reprint on Susan Ohanian's site, but her site is having issues as well. Ultimately, I was able to retrieve a copy of the reprint from the Wayback Machine.

I want to reproduce this last sentence from Ohanian's introduction, since she had such insight into why the essay was important:

“The hardline right wing may well love the vacuous phrase “soft bigotry of low expectations,” but let’s remember that education deform democrats love it just as much. It is mostly used to put progressive activists on the defensive.” — Susan Ohanian


Elmo isn't Gramsci for kids and the mythical soft bigotry of low expectations

“We address the soft bigotry of low expectations so that we may ignore the hard racism of inequity.” — John Kuhn

Although this footage isn't new and commentators have already discussed it, it deserves reexamination since it illuminates one of the core false tenets of the corporate education reform canon.

Amidst the bizarre assertion that Sesame Street is indoctrinating children in some sort of insidious left wing plot, reactionary Ben Shapiro says that:

"I talked to one of the guys who's at Children's Television Workshop originally and he said the whole purpose of Sesame Street was cater to black and hispanic youths who, quote unquote, did not have reading literature in the house, there kind of this soft bigotry of low expectations that's automatically associated with Sesame Street."

Ahhh — the chimerical "soft bigotry of low expectations." As opposed to the hard bigotry of the pervasive institutional racism underpinning our economic system, which facilitates the division of workers and submerses a majority in abject poverty in order to make a small minority obscenely rich. The very same minority, by the way, that supports privatizing public education via charters and vouchers.

The dubious phrase is beloved by the hardline right. The Birchers at the Heartland Institute [1] use the phrase with reckless abandon. Cato, Manhattan, Hoover, and all the other reactionary right wing think tanks repeat the phrase "soft bigotry of low expectations" as if it's the mantra necessary to permanently bring back the gilded age they all pine for.

Of course the nonsensical phrase isn't limited to fringe right-wing kooks that also think John Galt and Howard Rourke are historical figures. Many supposed-liberals, or at the very least Democratic Leadership Council party operatives, use the phrase as often, if not more often than their teabagging counterparts.

The vile billionaire hedge fund shyster Whitney Tilson uses the phrase incessantly. Remember too that the ever obtuse Tilson helped form two of the most virulent corporate reform and privatization pushing organizations in existence: Teach for America (TFA) and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). The latter, DFER, uses the phrase in its privatization propaganda. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has used the phrase. TFA's Wendy Kopp has had a lucrative career peddling the phrase. The snarling queen of Erasuregate, Michelle Rhee, cherishes such phrases. Los Angeles' poverty pimping opportunist Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proudly plasters the phrase on twitter.

The unprincipled construction "soft bigotry of low expectations" is typically credited to the Council on Foreign Relations's arch-reactionary Michael Gerson, who was the speechwriter for fraudulent Rod Paige's Texas Education Miracle co-fraud, George W. Bush.

Like all the philosophically threadbare propaganda from the right, the expression is vapid and vacuous, without any real meaning whatsoever, putting it right along with "no excuses," and "working hard and being nice." Professor Noam Chomsky best addresses these types of phrases:

"It doesn't mean anything... That's the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody's going to be against, and everybody's going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn't mean anything. Its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something: Do you support our policy?" [2]

The policy in question is to ignore poverty and demand a false accountability from all of poverty's victims. While there are countless works discussing this, a recent pair of essays by my Schools Matter colleague Professor P. L. Thomas, EdD, really get to the heart of this issue: Poverty and Testing in Education: "The Present Scientifico-legal Complex" part 1 and part 2.

Humane Expectations Devoid of any Bigotry

In my many years I've never come across an educator that had anything but "realistic expectations tempered with compassion and empathy" for their students, regardless of where they taught. Moreover, for right wing reactionaries to accuse hard working women and men that have dedicated their lives to educating inner city students of bigotry of any sort smacks of hypocrisy of the highest order. It's laughable on its face.

Of course compassion and empathy are foreign words to the rogues gallery discuss above, none of whom have ever taught in their lives. Well, with the exceptions of Wendy Kopp and Michelle Malkin — I mean, Michele Bachmann, er, — I mean Michelle Rhee (sorry it's so easy to confuse those three). Rhee is so devoid of empathy and compassion that one of the most enduring stories from her short stint as a TFA missionary is when she taped her students mouths shut with masking tape and then walked them to the lunchroom, bleeding lips and all. Kopp is seemingly less of a sociopath than Rhee, but it's clear her passion for fame and fortune outweigh any compassion she might have once had.

Access To Books

The other thing reactionary Shapiro gets entirely wrong before employing the hackneyed "soft bigotry of low expectations" nonsense, was to dismiss the Children's Television Workshop's catering to children that "did not have reading literature in the house." Access to books in the home is a major indicator of academic achievement and impoverished families have very limited access to books. This is a fact, and not something to be dismissed by a sniveling right winger threatening to "take them [Elmo and Big Bird] out back and cap them."

Another one of my Schools Matter colleagues, the distinguished Professor Stephen Krashen, PhD, has researched and written extensively on the subject of access to books. Here are a small sampling of his available short articles linking to longer works on the subject.

Given the staunch anti-intellectualism, lack of knowledge about all thing pedagogical, and academic aversion that whiny right wingers like Shapiro are known for, it's no wonder that he didn't get the whole importance of providing additional educational resources for children that "did not have reading literature in the house" like the prescient folks at Children's Television Workshop always have.

"True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity." [3]

Now that we're discussing these things, let's talk about the stark racism and classism stemming from the corporate education reform movement, which is orchestrated by the same plutocrats that aired Shapiro's television program. After all, those are the sort of things that vacuous phrases like "soft bigotry of low expectations" are supposed to distract us from.


NOTES

[1] Heartland Institute is none other than Parent Revolution's sister organization. Word is that in addition to co-hosting school privatization forums that Ben Austin and Ben Boychuck formulate policy together.

[2] Chomsky, Noam. Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, Second Edition. New York: Seven Stories Press., 1991. pp. 25-26.

[3] Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary Edition. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc., 2009. p. 45.



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Saturday, December 02, 2017

Stop Wendy Carrillo from implementing the Betsy DeVos agenda!

“[C]harter schools with privately appointed boards do not represent the public but make decisions about how public funds are spent…” — NAACP

Wendy Carrillo is an enemy of public education. Carrillo is a contributing "network member" of the right-wing Education Post, an anti-public education and pro-privatization outfit funded by the Walton Family Foundation and other right-wing extremists.

Because Carrillo advocates for the same education privatization policies as reactionary Betsy DeVos, the right-wing, billionaire charter school trade association—the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) is backing her. CCSA's Independent Expenditure (IE) committee is dumping huge sums into Carrillo's campaign, knowing they can count on her to attack public schools and increase charter industry's bottom line.

On June 8, 2010 Carrillo wrote a nasty hit piece for the Huffington Post entitled "California Superintendent of Public Instruction: More Than Just a Job" in which she attacks public schools, berates hardworking teachers, disparages labor unions, engages in ageism, shills for the lucrative charter school industry, and lastly she provided cover for right-wing candidate Gloria Romero.

There is a vicious smear in her piece, where she says that the "union is no longer able to strong arm education reform legislation" (citation supra). That alone is sufficient enough to establish Carrillo's vile, DeVos-style politics. Only neoliberal corporate education reformers recite this false narrative of unions versus the so-called reformers (read ideologically charged billionaires). That Carrillo didn't mention Romero's ties to to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Romero's pushing of the vile "trigger" legislation, or Romero's employment with the right-wing Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), all of which occurred prior to 2010, is further evidence of Carrillo's neoliberal corporate education reform leanings.

Carrilo is running for the California Assembly District 51. The special election is on December 5, 2017. Fight privatization and neoliberalism. Vote against Wendy Carrillo and her right-wing, Betsy DeVos agenda.



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Friday, October 06, 2017

Jeanne Allen: Reactionary Right-Wing Extremist

Allen: On board with ALEC

It’s general knowledge that Center for Education Reform (CER), and its CEO Jeanne Allen, are extremely right-wing. Sourcewatch documents their connection with American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Allen: Funded by the fringe

Jeanne Allen’s CER is funded by reactionary extremist billionaires, here’s a a sampling of their fringe-right supporters:

  • The Anschutz Foundation
  • The Laura and John Arnold Foundation
  • The Honorable and Mrs. Frank Baxter
  • The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
  • The Broad Foundation
  • The Doris and Donald Fisher Fund
  • The L & S Milken Family Foundation
  • Mr. Whitney Tilson
  • The Walton Family Foundation

Allen: Writing for the Fringe-Right

Jeanne Allen is a frequent contributor for reactionary publications like National Review. Additionally, she expressed enthusiastic support, in writing, for the policies of Donald J. Trump and his arch-reactionary Secretary of Education, religious extremist Betsy DeVos. Moreover, Allen was called out on Crooks and Liars for her full-throated support of DeVos’ segregationist policies.

Allen: Reactionary Republican

Jeanne Allen ran as the GOP candidate in 2010 for Maryland’s District 16 race for House of Delegates. She received funding from right-wing republicans like Jeb Bush, dark-money investors, and charter school profiteers. Jeanne Allen was Executive Director of the extreme-right Heritage Foundation’s “Town Hall.”


Brief history on how this meme came about. I recently tweeted about Allen in connection to an article I saw another activist post about her.

My tone not comporting, to steal from Professor Dylan Rodriguez, with the norms of "white civil society" caused some consternation with the reactionaries inhabiting #EdReform Twitter. Here are a few of the more notable responses:



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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Conference presentation on criminal defendant Ref Rodriguez

Legal scholar Robert D. Skeels gave a twenty minute talk on criminal defendant Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez of the California Charter Schools Association at a conference on school privatization on October 1, 2017.



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Friday, September 29, 2017

Criminal defendant Ref Rodriguez, an introduction

Corporate charter school mogul Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez has been in the news lately. First, for his being elected President of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education. Second, he is facing criminal charges of three felony counts, including conspiracy and perjury, and 25 misdemeanor counts of assumed name contribution.

Who is this rising star of the California Charter Schools Association? How did he end up on LAUSD’s board despite having never attended, nor worked at a public school? Why are these charges no surprise to Los Angeles public education activists? All of the questions and more answered in a talk by Robert D. Skeels at 2:30 PM during Defend Public Education NOW’s Opposing Charter Schools Conference. This talk, and topic, is one of many at the event.

Conference: Opposing Charter Schools
Saturday, September 30, 2017 from 11 AM — 4 PM
Southern California Library
6120 S Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90044

Robert D. Skeels is a Juris Doctor candidate specializing in education policy and the law. His work appears in a range of publications including Jacobin, Truthout, and CounterPunch. He is one of the contributors for schoolsmatter.info



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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Schools Matter: Time to end the racist triumvirate of Tuck, Huppenthal, and Horne

First published on Schools Matter on August 29, 2017


It’s a tale of white fragility and fear, really.—Imani Gandy

These two racist State Superintendents finally got what they deserved for shuttering ethnic studies in Arizona. However, right here in California, we have a candidate for State Superintendent that enacted the same policies in Los Angeles—shuttering ethnic studies, closing dual language programs, and killing heritage language programs. That bigot's name is Marshall Tuck. Let's show Tuck that California is not Arizona, and that we shouldn't have to wait for years for a court to rule in on his racist policies. Let's stop Tuck from repeating a Horne or a Huppenthal, by making sure he never holds a position of power in which he can harm school children again.



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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Grit by any other name is torture

Angela Duckworth and her "academic" mentor Martin Seligman helped develop torture models that the CIA uses in places like Iraq. The very same elements of these torture models were taken from Duckworth et al. to establish the horrific "no excuses" policies of corporate charter school chains like KIPP. Both Duckworth and Seligman are monsters, and that the corporate media continues to provide them a platform is a testament to the pervasiveness of neoliberal ideology. Dr. Jim Horn and others have written quite a lot about Duckworth and her ilk at SchoolsMatter.



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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Charter schools harm students

Remediation costs from charter high school “graduates” getting into college, but not having basic proficiency are astronomical both in terms of economics, and in demoralizing students. Education legal scholars like Robert D. Skeels have called for wealthy charter school executives and their unelected boards of directors to be held personally liable for the damages both to individual students, and to society at large. The costs of putting charter greed before student need are grave. It’s time to end the racist and classist “school choice” project.

Source http://asd.calstate.edu



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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Senator Bernie Sanders endorses Padilla and Zimmer for LAUSD

Senator Bernie Sanders stands against right-wing privatizers like Melvoin. Sanders endorses Padilla and Zimmer for LAUSD.

https://charterschoolfacts.tumblr.com/post/160683214828


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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Schools Matter: Privatizer Nick Melvoin wants Betsy DeVos style policies for Los Angeles

First published on Schools Matter on May 13, 2017


"Melvoin’s people are not ordinary constituents passing daily through LAUSD’s school house doors. These are an extremely rarefied set of LA’s ruling class, the managers and not the workers of this great city." — Sara Roos

Nick Melvoin is a right-of-center, neoliberal privatizer who is close to David F. Welch and many other anti-public-education billionaires. The list of contributors for his Los Angeles Unified School (LAUSD) Board run contains some of the most virulent reactionaries bent on destroying the public commmons, and making education an easy source of revenue for the various industries they profit from.

David F. Welch is the right-wing, extremist millionaire that started the vile Nonprofit Industrial Complex (#NPIC) "Students Matter" which initiated/funded the Vergara v. California and other anti-public-education lawsuits.

Fortunately, the California Court of Appeals didn't agree with the arch-reactionary trial judge in Vergara, overturned his wrongheaded holdings, and vacated his judgement: Another defeat in court for right-wing privatizer David F. Welch.

Former Teach for America, Melvoin has worked with other organizations like Teach Plus, and testified for Welch in the Vergara action. Testified, in bad faith, against the very public schools that he worked for. Laura Moser writes in Slate:

"Nick Melvoin taught at one of those high-poverty schools in Watts, Los Angeles—until he was laid off, two years in a row, a victim of LIFO. Melvoin, who is now a teacher organizer with Teach Plus and a recently declared candidate for the L.A. Unified school board, testified on behalf of the plaintiffs in Vergara and thinks that overturning the statutes contested in Vergara “would be a game changer. It’s necessary but not sufficient,” he said."

One has to ask if Melvoin was really put out by layoffs, why didn't he go to work at one of the charter corporations he is so concerned about increasing market share for? Instead of questioning a system that doesn't provide enough resources to keep public school teachers employed — hence last in, first out policies, Melvoin disingenuously held himself out as the "poster child" for a policy that he, and other Betsy DeVos acolytes, falsely frame as an issue of teacher longevity versus quality.

Melvoin's almost irrational hatred of public schools is best summed up by his desire to entirely supplant them with privately managed institutions, including charter schools. When news broke of decades of scandal by Celerity Charter Corporation and their corrupt founder, Vielka McFarlane, Melvoin wrote an Op-Ed providing political cover. McFarlane is best known for the incident where she and her administrators claimed Emmett Till deserved to die, in defense of her firing teachers over a social justice lesson plan. McFarlane's reputation for dishonesty and greed even earned her the ire of former LAUSD Superindendent Johh Deasy, an individual generally not known for taking issue with wealthy charter school executives. That Melvoin positioned himself as McFarlane's champion says much.

Melvoin would bring the entire Betsy DeVos agenda to Los Angeles. His penchant for segregation, privatization, and subsidizing the greed of the charter school industry is peerless.



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Friday, May 05, 2017

Graphic Essay: Betsy DeVos' 'School Choice' Movement Isn't Social Justice. It's a Return to Segregation.

Charters and vouchers have always been intended to break public schools, and wrest education away from the public commons. "School choice," a phrase coined by segregationists, has always been about maintaining and exacerbating segregation by race and class.

Graphic Essay: Betsy DeVos' 'School Choice' Movement Isn't Social Justice. It's a Return to Segregation. by Adam Bessie and Erik Thurman is a powerful piece that makes complex concepts easy to understand. It's a excellent thing to share with non-academics regarding the scourge of school privatization via charters-vouchers. I've included a quote and a teaser from the piece below.

http://socialjusticequotations.tumblr.com/post/160327844183/the-school-choice-system-is-jim-crow-education
https://charterschoolfacts.tumblr.com/post/160327683353/graphic-essay-betsy-devos-school-choice


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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tell California State Senators to support SB 808


Network for Public Education (NPE) is helping to support California Senate Bill 808. The legislation, while it doesn't go far enough, is an important first step towards reeling in the outrageous excesses of the charter school sector. My letter to my State Senator appears below, as well as the call to action letter from NPE.

Senator de Leon:

I am a third year law student, studying hard so that I can become an attorney and defend families of children with disabilities against discrimination by the lucrative charter school industry. Prior to my studying law, I wrote for numerous publications about the essentially unregulated charter sector, exposing abuses, fraud, misrepresentation, and more importantly, discriminatory conduct towards the most vulnerable students.

Charters discriminate against English language learners, students with disciplinary histories, students with disabilities, and more. Meanwhile, their high-powered executives—many of whom are not even educators—pull down astronomical salaries and use their ability as unregulated 501c3s to award no bid contracts to their friends, relatives, or in the case of a current Los Angeles School Board member, to their own consulting firm. Since members of the taxpaying public don't elect charter school boards, there exists a system that puts public money into private hands with no mechanisms to ensure even a modicum of transparency or oversight.

Furthermore, my alma mater, UCLA, has conducted several studies demonstrating that charter schools exacerbate segregation, and fuel the so-called "school to prison pipeline." A perusal of the studies compiled by UCLA's The Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles would cause any reasonable person to realize that decades of letting the revenue-stream-driven charter school industry "regulate" itself has resulted in an abject situation.

Therefore, I'm asking you to please support SB 808. This bill would give California’s democratically elected, local school boards the final say when it comes to the approval of charter school petitions. The present system takes away community control, forcing districts to navigate reduced budgets and high legal costs for schools over which they have no authority.

Schools that receive public dollars must be responsible to the public. Thank you.


Dear Robert D,

NPE and NPE Action have long been concerned about charter schools in California. You can read our NPE reports about them here.

Now there is a chance to make a small improvement. On April 26th, SB 808 comes up for a hearing before the Senate Education Committee.

This bill would give California’s democratically elected, local school boards the final say when it comes to the approval of charter school petitions. Under current laws, charter petitioners can appeal to state and county boards of education, thereby taking away community control, forcing districts to navigate reduced budgets and high legal costs for schools over which they have no authority. Meanwhile, charter schools often receive blank checks, in the form of pro-bono legal work, funded by the billionaire-backed lobbying group, The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). We need to level the playing field, so that all schools which receive public funding are responsible and accountable in the same ways.

Here is what we need you to do.

1. Send an email to your Senator. We make it very easy- just click here.

2. Call the members of the Senate Education Committee and ask them to vote YES on SB 808.

• Benjamin Allen, Chair (Santa Monica) 916-651-4026
• Scott Wilk, Vice Chair (Santa Clarita) 916-651-4021
• Cathleen Galgiani (Stockton) 916-651-4005
• Connie M. Leyva (Chino) 916-651-4020
• Tony Mendoza (Artesia) 916-651-4032
• Richard Pan (Sacramento) 916-651-4006
• Andy Vidak (Hanford) 916-651-4014

Let them know that the taxpayers of California deserve local, democratically elected and accountable officials overseeing how their children are educated and tax dollars are spent. Let them know that you are tired of charter school scandals. California's children and taxpayers deserve better.

Thank you for all that you do.

Carol Burris

Executive Director of NPE Action


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GO ON STRIKE! May 1, 2017



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