Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nat Hentoff Wishes BloomKlein a Happy New Year

Federal Court Defendants Joel Klein & Ray Kelly

Nat Hentoff in The Village Voice

Our Education Mayor remains silent about police abuses of students in public schools By Nat Hentoff, published: December 31, 2008


I have reported often here on the documented abuses of students, and even some teachers, by the School Safety Agents deployed in this city's schools under Kelly, Klein, and Michael Bloomberg (the latter two praised around the country as champions of "school reform"). Since the 1950s, I've written in columns and books on our schools—and their chancellors from the worst to the best. But not until the Bloomberg/Klein regime have I seen such flagrant dereliction of accountability at the very top of the school system for frequent abuse of students by police agents.

Teaching fear of the police is part of the curriculum in the school system—of which Bloomberg is so proud that he is striving (with the help of the City Council) to control the schools permanently.

Parent Empowerment Network, Year-End Update

We heard from Juanita Doyon in Washington State. Juanita is part of the George Schmidt, Susan Ohanian, crew that has been so persistent (and prescient) in their exposure of the phony education reform movement. John Lawhead and I connected up to them at the ACTNow conference in Birmingham, Al in March 2003 - in our pre-ICE days. To their critics -- na, na, na,na - they have been right all along.

Juanita is the high stakes button lady and recently sent 5000 "Choose the Best Answer: Teach/Test” to the LA Teachers Union. (I used to sell them at the UFT Delegate Assembly.) She also played a role in assisting the new Wash. State ed commissioner get elected, supported Carl Chew in his test resistance and lots more.

Read Juanita's entire post on her significant doings here:

Parent Empowerment Network, Year-End Update

It’s not too late to make one last 2008 tax-deductible contribution to your favorite, outspoken nonprofit organization. Your help is needed, today! If you like what you read here and believe there is a need for PEN’s voice, please send your check of $10, $25, $100 or more to:

Parent Empowerment Network
PO Box 494
Spanaway, WA 98387

or contribute through PayPal at

Time to Bring Honest Government to NYC

As the Bloomberg administration has been exposed for it's blatant attempts to subvert basic democratic institutions - buying and bribing politicians and charities in exchange for political support and subverting the entire system of public education to benefit private interests, a call has gone out to find an appropriate candidate on the Democratic side to stand firm for more honest government.

After diligent research, Education Notes has come up with a worthy candidate who will soon be available and looks clean as a hound's tooth compared to Bloomberg - soon to be former Illinois governor Rudy Blogojevich.

With his appointment yesterday of a candidate for the US Senate who is about 1000% more qualified than Bloomberg's favorite, Carolyn Kennedy, Rudy B has exhibited a significantly higher degree of judgement (and honesty) than Bloomberg.

Of course, if Rudy B is not available, there's always Bernie Madoff - who better to have raise money in a budget crunch?

But if Bernie's not available, here's my favorite -

Related from Gary Babad at NYC Public School Parents:

Test Scores Crash, Class Size Soars as Klein Rings Closing Bell

GBN News “Best Headline of 2009” Contest

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Send a message to Obama about the need for smaller classes now!

Posted at:

But worth repeating in full. Note mention of Andrew Rotherham: Instead of class size reduction Andy "wants to require that this critical funding be spent on more experimental and controversial programs, that are supposedly 'high leverage' – like teacher performance pay and Teach for America." Yep, that's Andy. Let's throw anything that smells of market-based ideology against the wall and see if it sticks (don't worry, it won't.)

Obama’s transition team has a website, with proposals for his administration to consider that were suggested by members of the public.

Please, go now and vote for smaller classes -- you can also leave a comment on the website. According to his transition team, "the top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by, MySpace, more than a dozen leading nonprofits after the Inauguration. So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy.

The first round of voting to determine the top three ideas in each category will end tomorrow, December 31 – so there isn’t much time! Why is this important?

Recently, there has been an unprecedented attack on class size reduction at the national level by policymakers, bloggers, business leaders and foundations, despite the fact that smaller classes are one of the few education reforms that have been proven to work, according to the research arm of the US Dept. of Education, and that also have widespread support among parents and educators.

In a recent report, Andrew Rotherham, an influential inside-the-beltway blogger, has proposed that school districts no longer be able to use their federal Title II education funds for this purpose – despite the fact that about half of all districts currently invest these funds in smaller classes. Instead, he wants to require that this critical funding be spent on more experimental and controversial programs, that are supposedly “high leverage” – like teacher performance pay and Teach for America.

In support of his opposition to class size reduction, he cites not a single research study (because none exists) but an oped published in the Daily News last year, written by Robert Gordon, a consultant employed by Joel Klein and another inside-the-beltway policy wonk, who trashed public school parents for their “class size obsession”.

Like Joel Klein and Jim Liebman, Gordon is an attorney with no experience as an educator or researcher. Yet both Rotherham and Gordon are being promoted by the charter school privatization and testing crowd to receive top-level appointments in an Obama administration.

Their attacks on class size have been joined in recent opeds by conservative commentator, David Brooks of the NY Times, who wrote that small classes were a “superficial” reform, compared to “merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards”, and Lou Gerstner, former head of IBM, who baldly stated in the Wall St. Journal that class size “does not matter” and is pushing for the abolition of all school districts (along with more merit pay and testing.)

The most powerful man in education circles today, Bill Gates, who intends to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the newest flavors of the week, including -- you guessed it -- more charter schools, testing, and merit pay, recently joined in on the chorus, attacking class size reduction in a prominent speech,

So vote for smaller classes here, if you would like Obama to consider supporting class size reduction and more school construction. Help him resist the loud but clueless voices of the DC education policy establishment.

Please forward this message to others who care, and Happy New Year.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters

From the Horses' Mouths

Some recent noteworthy blogs:

NYC Educator shows how Bloomberg solved the problem of high class sizes: One child per class; teachers just teach 40 classes at a time.

This Little Blog searches for proof of Michelle Rhee's 300 bowling score, as elusive as the spectacular results her kids scored when she taught.

Duncan wrong education choice
by Kevin Kumashiro
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

More on Duncan BAD from Kenneth Libby posted at This Little Blog

Monday, December 29, 2008

From Bill and Joanne Cala: Joining Hearts and Hands

Just got this from Bill, who would be a great choice to replace Richard Mills as State Ed Commissioner. This is what he does in his "spare" time.
Still time to give.

A three-room classroom is under construction in Katito, Kenya with a school kitchen, playground and lavatories.

Hannah’s Hope Near Completion

There will be 17 of us traveling to Kenya next week to cut the ribbon that will officially open Hannah’s Hope. If you did not see yesterday’s Democrat and Chronicle or if you are not in the Rochester area,, there was a wonderful article by reporter Jim Goodman covering Hannah’s Hope. The URL is:

We just returned from a great meeting at Terry and Marilyn Congdon’s home. Friends and Family of the Congdons along with some of our special friends went over last-minute trip details. The best part of the meeting was dividing all of the donated books, clothing, medical supplies, school supplies and games for our young Kenyan students. Each of us is carrying 50 pounds of materials to Africa. That’s almost 900 pounds of kindness.

As we make the expedition, we ask for your prayers and good wishes. We will be opening Hannah’s Hope at a Mass on January 11th and all of you will be in our prayers of thanksgiving for making the dream of Hannah’s Hope become a reality.

This is also a great time to take advantage of a 2008 tax deduction. There is still a week left in the year to do so! Any and all donations are greatly appreciated. We know how difficult these economic times have been in the USA. Imagine what this world-wide recession is doing to developing countries! The need in Africa is greater than ever!

Donations can be sent to:

Joining Hearts and Hands
9 Fieldston Grove
Fairport, NY 14450

Peace, Love and Happy Holidays,

Bill and Joanne Cala

Friday, December 26, 2008

Are All Low-Income Students Alike?

When the Daily Howler's Bob Somerby speaks on education, we listen, as he exposes so much of the way the press mis-covers the story. Somerby really taught elementary school for over a decade in the Baltimore school system - he has done yeoman work in exposing the Michelle Rhee "miracle" when she also did her 2 year stint of teaching.

I've been wanting to write about the differences in the kids and families I saw over my 30 years teaching elementary school in one of the poorest areas of the city as a way to explain the way charter schools draw off the most ambitious families. Not that I blame them. But let's not keep saying when we compare kids in charters and public schools in the same neighborhood we are not talking apples and oranges.

I will write again on this issue, providing specific examples at how kids in the same school, neighborhood, buildings and even sometimes, family, can be so different academically – something teachers who rotated from top to bottom classes every year when the kids were grouped homogeneously saw on a regular basis.

In his last two posts, Somerby nails this so much better than I could.
The authors [of a report pointing to how Washington DC charters performed so much better than public schools] say that charters and traditional schools “are, in general, educating students from similar backgrounds.” To establish this fact, they cite data about income and race—and about nothing else. But low-income students are not all alike, and the authors make little real attempt to address the long-standing, basic question about charters: Are the students who choose to attend these rigorous charter schools more ambitious, more determined, more focused than the students they leave behind?

Not all “low income” families are equally low-income. Are the low-income kids in the charter schools as low-income as the kids in the regular schools? We can think of a few simple ways to start to check, but the authors didn’t try to do so.

The Howler has two lengthy posts on this issue (Dec.23 - but it is so insightful, we just have to use most of this here for people who don't click on the links.

From here on it is all Howler:

[The Washington Post editors] tried to explain why DC charters were outpacing DC’s traditional schools. Assuming that students in the charters really are doing better, that’s a question which actually matters. And here’s the way the eds explained it, right at the start of their piece:

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL: Students in the District's charter schools on average outperform peers who attend the city's traditional public schools. They do so not because they come from more privileged backgrounds but because the charters are free to innovate and implement practices that work. The charter schools' success in educating poor and minority children should be celebrated, and it should help validate efforts by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to bring similar changes to the traditional public schools. The charters' independence, so vital to their success, should be protected.

Again, the editors misstated their factual claim from the jump; the news report on which this editorial was based concerned low-income students (in middle schools), not DC students generally. But quickly, the editors stated their larger view: In DC, charter school kids are scoring higher “not because they come from more privileged backgrounds but because the charters are free to innovate and implement practices that work.” That’s a very important judgment—and we don’t know why the editors feel so certain about it.

Let’s return to the lengthy news report on which this editorial was based. In DC’s middle schools, charter kids are outscoring their peers in traditional schools, Dan Keating and Theola Labbe-DeBose said. (We’re assuming their data are accurate.) And sure enough! Right in the front-page headline in our hard-copy Post, a judgment was made about the cause of the score gaps:

Gains Made In Educating City’s Poor Children
Rigorous Methods, Ample Funds Linked to Improved Test Scores

We think that’s a fair account of what the authors said in their report. They suggested two reasons for the charter schools’ higher scores; the charters have a funding advantage, they said, and the charters apply rigorous methods not often seen in the regular schools. Five days later, the editors voiced their own views—and skipped right past that funding advantage. The eds made the news report’s tale even simpler: Charter school kids are outscoring their peers “because the charters are free to innovate and implement practices that work.” Soon, the editors identified a few of these practices: “[L]onger school days, summer classes, an inclusive culture of parental involvement, and the power to hire teachers who are committed to a school's philosophy and dismiss teachers who aren't up to the job.”

According to the editors, charters students are doing better because of those practices—and that’s the end of the story. No other explanations need apply. Charter kids are not doing better “because they come from more privileged backgrounds,” the editors specifically said.

But is that true? We’re not real sure why the editors feel so certain.

In their original news report, Keating and Labbe-DeBose also seemed to reject a traditional notion—the notion that charter schools may draw brighter, more ambitious students away from the regular schools. Unfortunately, their analysis of this possibility was rather superficial. In the following passage, we see the heart of their case. Because the question is so important, we don’t think this reasoning cuts it:

KEATING AND LABBE-DEBOSE (12/15/08): The two public systems are, in general, educating students from similar backgrounds. About two-thirds of the students in both systems live in poverty, and more than 90 percent are minorities, according to school records. The traditional schools enroll a slightly higher percentage of special education students and students with limited English.

Charter schools must accept any student who applies, using a lottery if they have more applicants than spaces. That prevents the schools from cherry-picking applicants. But each school is free to set its own rules on expelling students.

Susan Schaeffler, who heads the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter schools in the District, said expulsions have not been a major factor. Almost all of the students at KIPP's three D.C. middle schools come from poor backgrounds, but the schools are among the highest-performing in the city. Within a decade, KIPP, a national charter network, plans to have 10 schools in the District, with a total of 3,400 students.

“Our success is not from moving kids out," she said, but is attributable to a highly unified school culture that teachers and students embrace.”

The authors say that charters and traditional schools “are, in general, educating students from similar backgrounds.” To establish this fact, they cite data about income and race—and about nothing else. But low-income students are not all alike, and the authors make little real attempt to address the long-standing, basic question about charters: Are the students who choose to attend these rigorous charter schools more ambitious, more determined, more focused than the students they leave behind? It would be hard to answer that question, of course, but the authors brushed past it quickly—and five days later, the editors treated it as a settled point. But this is typical of the way these eds work when discussing the public schools.

By the way: Not all “low income” families are equally low-income. Are the low-income kids in the charter schools as low-income as the kids in the regular schools? We can think of a few simple ways to start to check, but the authors didn’t try to do so. Nor did they try to quantify the expulsions they mention above, seeking a sense of the role these expulsions might play in the charters’ success. In their report, a KIPP official tells them that “expulsions have not been a major factor”—and that’s where the matter ends. This is not an impressive attempt to examine these parts of their story.

Assuming the Post’s test score data are accurate, why are low-income kids scoring better in DC’s charters? That’s a very important question. We think the eds should maintain open minds about possible answers—although such miracles rarely occur when the Post proclaims on the schools.

In closing, three more basic points:

First, if you read through the Keating/Labbe-DeBose piece, you will read about a lot of people in charter schools who are working very hard to succeed. How different are some DC charters? Here’s a quick overview:

KEATING/LABBE-DEBOSE: Freed from centralized rules, charter directors have been able to rethink age-old structures, including the Monday-through-Friday, 8-to-3 schedule.

At many charters, students stay until 5 p.m., with the extra hours devoted to more class time and extra tutoring. Many require students to attend Saturday classes and summer school. Schaeffler said KIPP students spend 47 percent more time in class than students do in traditional schools.

It is not uncommon for charters to buy cellphones for the teachers and then tell students and parents to call anytime they need help.

At Friendship's Blow Pierce middle school in Northeast, parents are asked to sign a statement promising that they will get their children to school on time each day, make sure they wear the uniform, complete homework on time, and attend classes on Saturdays and in the summer if their grades fall below a C average. The parents also agree to attend conferences and school events.

School culture has vastly changed in these schools. In our book, the people who run these schools deserve praise and credit for their ongoing efforts. But: Are the low-income parents who sign those statements, thus sending their kids to these vastly changed schools, “the same” as the low-income parents who don’t? Are their kids the same as the kids left behind? The editors tell us the kids are the same—that the kids in the charter schools do not “come from more privileged backgrounds.” But low-income children are privileged—as opposed to some of their peers—if they have disciplined, focused, insistent parents. As always, the editors issue proclamations from high in Versailles. Do they know whereof they speak?

A second point: Is there any possibility that testing is conducted differently in these ambitious charters? We have no idea, though it’s obviously possible. But you’ll see big newspapers ask that question when you see a cow jump past the moon.

And then too, a final point, concerning DC’s low-income students as compared to their low-income peers in the rest of the nation:

To review DC’s cores in the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress, just click here, then click through the pages of this “Trial Urban District” report. In Figure 2 (page 11), you’ll see that DC’s low-income fourth-graders scored lower in reading than their low-income peers from the nine other cities in this study. (The differences can be fairly sharp. In DC, low-income kids scored in the 18th percentile as compared to all other kids in the nation. In New York City, low-income kids scored in the 35th percentile.) DC’s low-income eighth-graders also scored lowest in reading (Figure 7, page 21). DC’s black kids are at the bottom in fourth grade reading—and are next to the bottom in eighth grade reading. We assume these data includes kids from traditional schools and charters, though the charts don’t specifically say.

In DC, those facts are also part of this story. There is much more to say about this story than was found in the Post news report—though Keating and Labbe-DeBose included a lot of useful information. (Assuming their test score data are accurate.) But five days later, the editors blew fairly hard, offering the types of sage conclusion their high class now tends to prefer. They huffed and puffed, till we averted our gaze. Thus do our editors tend to perform in matters of low-income schools.

Holiday Test Prep

I hope everyone is having a good and restful holiday. When I was teaching the number of activities around the school during the pre-holiday season wore people out.

This was made worse by my test-driven principal who has us prepare a package of assignment materials for the kids to do on their vacation. If it was just something like reading books and doing a report I could see that. But the packages were full of test practice rexos. What a waste of time and materials.

I guess that was all related to some of the tests being given in January. They all used to be given in late March and early April, and then later, the first week of May. Now it is test prep all the time. But my principal started this stuff when she took over in 1979, so we saw all the angles and learned every trick in the book for years before the test game playing became standardized.

I saw first hand for 2 decades what the test-driven systems do to teaching and students and how teaching and learning were negatively affected.

When I became active again in the UFT when I became chapter leader in 1994 (after over a decade of union inactivity - I had bought a house and was involved in a Masters degree program in computer science) I began to raise the high stakes testing issue at Delegate Assemblies in the late 90's– naturally to deaf ears.

At one point in my of my resolutions, I spoke about how the testing mania had driven the rest of the curriculum underground, gutting things like social studies and science in elementary schools. Even I was surprised at the applause I received.

Randi Weingarten was always present. so when she talks about the evils of too much testing I know just how much bull shit she is all about.

A Tale of Bloomberg, Wolfson, Caroline - and Randi Too

One of Glover's top clients is the United Federation of Teachers, and Wolfson's move to Bloomberg may be a signal that the union's retreat on the term-limits bill in October will be repeated in the mayoral election, with union president Randi Weingarten, who's often railed against Bloomberg education policies, neutralized or even backing Bloomberg.

The Village Voice

Inside Mayor Bloomberg's Hiring of Hillary Clinton Aide Howard Wolfson

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Update on The Baileys and Potter

As an adjunct to last night's post on It's A Wonderful Life, there is this item in today's business section of the NY Times. Jeffrey Goldfarb writes in Timely Twists on Holiday Films:

The most beloved films of Christmas are about redemption, often set against a backdrop of banking, real estate and commercialism. After the financial troubles of 2008, favorites like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” probably will be seen in a whole new light this holiday season.

Hollywood isn’t always content to let the audience do the re-imagining, however. Producers might want to create their own remakes, tinkering with the originals to frame them more appropriately for the current era. So we have imagined how five of the most popular holiday classics might be storyboarded to reflect the credit crisis.


This time around it’s Henry Potter who is suicidal on the eve of Christmas 2006 because his stingy banking has cost him immeasurable fees and sent his customers to mortgage lender George Bailey, who loved giving cheap loans to poor people. The angel Clarence Oddbody visits to show him that if Henry had never existed, Bedford Falls would have been called Baileyville, a boom-and-bust town ravaged by excessive leverage. With his newfound appreciation for what he has contributed to society, he returns home to find modest-living friends and family members, thankful to Mr. Potter for saving them from themselves.

The other four movie revisions are pretty funny too.

Related: The Subprime Mortgage Crisis: It Was All George Bailey's Fault

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Subprime Mortgage Crisis: It Was All George Bailey's Fault

Here I am watching "It's A Wonderful Life" for the umpteenth time - and with all the dumb ass commercials yet. So the Bailey Building and Loan gave away mortgages to people with no collateral. And mean Mr.Potter is there to say all the things we hear being said today about the lax policy. But George Bailey and his pop talk humanity. Must have been New Dealers.

Ooops! Gotta go. Clarence just pulled the switch.

POTTER: Have you put any real pressure on those people of yours to pay those mortgages?

BAILEY: Times are bad, Mr. Potter. A lot of these people are out of work.

POTTER: Then foreclose!

BAILEY: I can't do that. These families have children.

POTTER: They're not my children.

BAILEY: But they're somebody's children.

POTTER: Are you running a business or a charity ward?

BAILEY: Well, all right . . .

POTTER (interrupting): Not with my money!

CLOSE SHOT –– Potter and Bailey.

BAILEY: Mr. Potter, what makes you such a hard-skulled character? You have no family –– no children. You can't begin to spend all the money you've got.

POTTER: So I suppose I should give it to miserable failures like you and that idiot brother of yours to spend for me.

George cannot listen any longer to such libel about his father. He comes around in front of the desk.

GEORGE: He's not a failure! You can't say that about my father!

George’s father dies years later

POTTER: Peter Bailey was not a business man. That's what killed him. Oh, I don't mean any disrespect to him, God rest his soul. He was a man of high ideals, so-called, but ideals without common sense can ruin this town.
(picking up papers from table)
Now, you take this loan here to Ernie Bishop . . . You know, that fellow that sits around all day on his brains in his taxi. You know . . . I happen to know the bank turned down this loan, but he comes here and we're building him a house worth five thousand dollars.

George is at the door of the office, holding his coat and papers, ready to leave.

GEORGE: Well, I handled that, Mr. Potter. You have all the papers there. His salary, insurance. I can personally vouch for his character.

POTTER (sarcastically): A friend of yours?

GEORGE: Yes, sir.

POTTER: You see, if you shoot pool with some employee here, you can come and borrow money. What does that get us? A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class. And all because a few starry-eyed dreamers like Peter Bailey stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas. Now, I say . . .

George puts down his coat and comes around to the table, incensed by what Potter is saying about his father.

GEORGE: Just a minute –– just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no business man. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But neither you nor anybody else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was . . .

Why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter.

And what's wrong with that? Why . . . Here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You . . . you said . . . What'd you say just a minute ago? . . . They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait! Wait for what?

Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken-down that they . . . Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about . . . they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be!

POTTER: I'm not interested in your book. I'm talking about the Building and Loan.

GEORGE: I know very well what you're talking about. You're talking about something you can't get your fingers on, and it's galling you. That's what you're talking about, I know. (to the Board)
Well, I've said too much. I . . . You're the Board here. You do what you want with this thing. Just
one thing more, though. This town needs this measly one-horse institution if only to have some place where people can come without crawling to Potter. Come on, Uncle Billy!


CLOSE SHOT –– Sign hanging from a tree: "Welcome to Bailey Park." CAMERA PANS TO follow George's car and the old truck laden with furniture as they pass –– we hear Martini's voice singing "O Sole Mio." Bailey Park is a district of new small houses, not all alike, but each individual. New lawns here and there, and young trees. It has the promise when built up of being a pleasant little middle class section.



MEDIUM CLOSE SHOT –– George and Mary are on the porch of the new house, with the Martinis lined up before them.

GEORGE: Mr. and Mrs. Martini, welcome home.

The Martinis cross themselves.

CLOSE SHOT –– Mary and George on porch.

(to Mrs. Martini, giving her loaf of bread)
Bread! That this house may never know hunger.

Mrs. Martini crosses herself.

MARY (giving her salt): Salt! That life may always have flavor.

GEORGE (handing bottle to Martini): And wine! That joy and prosperity may reign forever. Enter the Martini castle!

The Martinis cross themselves, shaking hands all around. The kids enter, with screams of delight. Mrs. Martini kisses Mary.


CLOSE SHOT –– Potter seated in his wheelchair at his desk, with his goon beside him. His rent
collector, Reineman, is talking, pointing to maps spread out on the desk.

REINEMAN: Look, Mr. Potter, it's no skin off my nose. I'm just your little rent collector. But you
can't laugh off this Bailey Park any more. Look at it.

POTTER: Go on.

REINEMAN: Fifteen years ago, a half-dozen houses stuck here and there.
(indicating map)
There's the old cemetery, squirrels, buttercups, daisies. Used to hunt rabbits there myself. Look at it today. Dozens of the prettiest little homes you ever saw. Ninety per cent owned by suckers who used to pay rent to you. Your Potter's Field, my dear Mr. Employer, is becoming just that. And are the local yokels making with those David and Goliath wisecracks!

POTTER: Oh, they are, are they? Even though they know the Baileys haven't made a dime out of it.

REINEMAN: You know very well why. The Baileys were all chumps. Every one of these homes is worth twice what it cost the Building and Loan to build. If I were you, Mr. Potter . . .

POTTER (interrupting): Well, you are not me.

REINEMAN (as he leaves): As I say, it's no skin off my nose. But one of these days this bright young man is going to be asking George Bailey for a job.

Reineman exits.

POTTER: The Bailey family has been a boil on my neck long enough.


CLOSE SHOT –– Potter is lighting a big cigar which he has just given George. The goon is beside Potter's chair, as usual.

GEORGE: Thank you, sir. Quite a cigar, Mr. Potter.

POTTER: You like it? I'll send you a box.

GEORGE (nervously): Well, I . . . I suppose I'll find out sooner or later, but just what exactly did you want to see me about?

POTTER (laughs): George, now that's just what I like so much about you.
(pleasantly and smoothly)

George, I'm an old man, and most people hate me. But I don't like them either, so that makes it all even. You know just as well as I do that I run practically everything in this town but the Bailey Building and Loan. You know, also, that for a number of years I've been trying to get control of it . . . or kill it. But I haven't been able to do it. You have been stopping me. In fact, you have beaten me, George, and as anyone in this county can tell you, that takes some doing. Take during the depression, for instance. You and I were the only ones that kept our heads. You saved the Building and Loan, and I saved all the rest.

GEORGE: Yes. Well, most people say you stole all the rest.

POTTER: The envious ones say that, George, the suckers. Now, I have stated my side very frankly. Now, let's look at your side. Young man, twenty-seven, twenty-eight . . . married, making, say . . . forty a week.

GEORGE (indignantly): Forty-five!

POTTER: Forty-five. Forty-five. Out of which, after supporting your mother, and paying your bills, you're able to keep, say, ten, if you skimp. A child or two comes along, and you won't even be able to save the ten. Now, if this young man of twenty-eight was a common, ordinary yokel, I'd say he was doing fine. But George Bailey is not a common, ordinary yokel. He's an intelligent, smart, ambitious young man — who hates his job –– who hates the Building and Loan almost as much as I do. A young man who's been dying to get out on his own ever since he was born. A young man . . . the smartest one of the crowd, mind you, a young man who has to sit by and watch his friends go places, because he's trapped. Yes, sir, trapped into frittering his life away playing nursemaid to a lot of garlic-eaters. Do I paint a correct picture, or do I exaggerate?

GEORGE (mystified): Now what's your point, Mr. Potter?

POTTER: My point? My point is, I want to hire you.

GEORGE (dumbfounded): Hire me?

POTTER: I want you to manage my affairs, run my properties. George, I'll start you out at twenty thousand dollars a year.

George drops his cigar on his lap. He nervously brushes off the sparks from his clothes.

GEORGE (flabbergasted): Twenty thou . . . twenty thousand dollars a year?

POTTER: You wouldn't mind living in the nicest house in town, buying your wife a lot of fine clothes, a couple of business trips to New York a year, maybe once in a while Europe. You wouldn't mind that, would you, George?

GEORGE: Would I?
(looking around skeptically)
You're not talking to somebody else around here, are you? You know, this is me, you remember me? George Bailey.

POTTER: Oh, yes, George Bailey. Whose ship has just come in –– providing he has brains enough to climb aboard.

GEORGE: Well, what about the Building and Loan?

POTTER: Oh, confound it, man, are you afraid of success? I'm offering you a three year contract at twenty thousand dollars a year, starting today. Is it a deal or isn't it?

GEORGE: Well, Mr. Potter, I . . . I . . . I know I ought to jump at the chance, but I . . . I just . . . I wonder if it would be possible for you to give me twenty-four hours to think it over?

POTTER: Sure, sure, sure. You go on home and talk about it to your wife.

GEORGE: I'd like to do that.

POTTER: In the meantime, I'll draw up the papers.

GEORGE: All right, sir.

POTTER (offers hand): Okay, George?

GEORGE (taking his hand): Okay, Mr. Potter.

As they shake hands, George feels a physical revulsion. Potter's hand feels like a cold mackerel to
him. In that moment of physical contact he knows he could never be associated with this man. George drops his hand with a shudder. He peers intently into Potter's face.

GEORGE (cont'd –– vehemently): No . . . no . . . no . . . no, now wait a minute, here! I don't have to talk to anybody! I know right now, and the answer is no!
NO! Doggone it!
(getting madder all the time)
You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn't, Mr. Potter! In the . . . in the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider. You . . .

He turns and shouts at the goon, impassive as ever beside Potter's wheelchair.

GEORGE (cont'd): . . . And that goes for you too!

As George opens the office door to exit, he shouts at Mr. Potter's secretary in the outer office:

GEORGE (cont'd): And it goes for you too!

Full script at

George Schmidt Talks Arne Duncan

George Schmidt (along with Susan Ohanian) has been a prescient voice in opposition to the corporate and political hack attacks on public schools, teachers and ultimately, students and parents in the urban schools. He was interviewed by Bruce Dixon on WRFG Atlanta 89.3 on December 22, 2008 about Obama's choice of Arne Duncan as education secretary.

Did Barack Obama Just Appoint an Underqualified Political Hack & Privatizer to be Secretary of Education?

Audio Version:

The entire transcript is also posted on norms notes.


BD: In Chicago, for the benefit of our audience, we're in Atlanta GA now, the mayor is Richard Daley. 2009 marks his 20th year in office. His father was the mayor too for almost as long, from about 1956 if I remember right to 1975, I think, eighteen or nineteen years. So out of the last fifty or so years, for forty of them the city of Chicago has been run by the Daley clique, the Daley Regime, or as we call it in Chicago, the Machine. Arne Duncan, is he a product of the Machine.

GS: Exactly, Daley as I pointed out, in 1995 was given dictatorial power over the Chicago Public School system. It was based upon the lie that the system as a whole had failed, and the repetition of that lie from the eighties on. Daley has appointed two CEOs and roughly two school boards since then. Both of the CEOs have been white non-educators who replaced African American educators. Both of the CEOs had no experience in education or in corporate America. This is an important point since it's supposedly a corporate model. They were fundamentally political puppets who would do his bidding.

BD: So it does say something that out of all the superintendents of school systems, CEOs or whatever nationwide, Barack Obama reached around and found one that not only liked the corporate model but liked the military model too.

BD: Arne Duncan is going to be the nation's number one guy on education. Surely this guy must have years and years of classroom and administrative experience,

GS: Wrong. He has none.

BD: So he's never been in a classroom?

GS: No.
[Ed Note: George tells Bruce that he has never seen a Duncan resume despite years of asking for one. Bruce seems astounded.]

BD: Of course the new Obama administration is pledged to openness and transparency everywhere, so I'm sure that Arne's resumes and cv's and all that will surface really soon.

GS: If that's the case, people are going to find out that he spent most of his adult life either playing basketball or working with some very wealthy financiers from his old neighborhood of Hyde Park in Chicago.

BD: Since we are talking about applying this Chicago model of public education nationwide, what has the regime of high stakes testing and closing schools that don't meet testing goals which is now national policy thanks to No Child Left Behind meant to Chicago – oh, and one other thing I'd like to see if I can get your comment on is that Hillary Clinton at one point said let's repeal No Child Left Behind while Barack was saying, well, he didn't quite say mend it but don't end it, but something like that. So what has the regime of high stakes testing done for African Americans in Chicago and public education in Chicago?

GS: Basically the vast majority of the schools that have been closed for supposed academic failure, which means low test scores, have been those schools which served a population of 100% poor black children via a staff that was almost always majority black teachers and usually a black principal. Since Arne Duncan took over in 2001, he has closed over 20 elementary schools. Most of them have been privatized into charter schools, and he's closed six high schools. In all the cases I know of, the majority of the staffs of those schools who were then kicked out of union jobs and forced on the road to try to get new jobs, were majority black teachers and principals, many of which I knew personally. The six high schools he closed, Austin HS, Calumet HS, Collins HS, Englewood HS, Orr HS, and Harper HS, were either all black, in the case of five of them, or majority black and Latino in the case of Orr. That's the active record of what Arne Duncan has done in his school closings for which Barack Obama has praised him.

GS: On the night of the Dec. 15th it [Duncan's appointment as Ed Secty] was made official. On the 17th, the Board of Education had its regular monthly meeting scheduled for downtown Chicago. Even though they apparently, expected it to be a love fest for Arne Duncan, what happened was that more than a dozen teachers and community activists from seven schools got up and exposed Duncan's public record of sabotaging public education, of privatizing schools, of union busting, and of fraudulently cooking the educational statistics books. By the middle of the meeting Duncan had walked out for an hour and these testimonies continued to go on. By the end of the meeting members of the board were heatedly arguing with the teachers, and after the meeting two of the teachers were threatened. Members of Duncan's staff called their principals demanding to know why they had been allowed to take the day off work to talk about Arne Duncan's crimes (against public education) before a school board meeting.

Not one of the TV stations was there to film or video any of this activity during the board meeting. The only photographer there besides me, because I cover every board meeting for Substance, was a woman from the Chicago Tribune and the only photograph the Tribune did was of Barbara Easton Watkins, who according to speculation here is in line to succeed Duncan here in Chicago. The TV stations boycotted the meeting completely, the story in the Tribune was a wacky one that ignored most of what happened in the meeting. The Sun-Times which is our other major daily newspaper covered the meeting slightly accurately, and NPR had a reporter there who missed 98% of what was actually going on, typical for the way Chicago Public Radio has been covering this type of story.

The place where the impact of high stakes testing has been most devastating has been in those schools which serve the poorest children with the fewest resources and in the most challenging environments. In that area, the schools have not been improved, but instead the teachers and schools have been under attack for failing at things the society has never taken responsibility for.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

UFT/AFT Leads the Race to the Bottom

Bob Herbert in today's NY Times (A Race to the Bottom) talks about the attacks on workers while millionaire bankers get bailouts. He focuses on teachers and auto workers, quoting extensively from Randi Weingarten. What's interesting is that in the midst of this supposed defense of teachers he says:

But Ms. Weingarten’s defense of her members was not the most important part of the speech. The key point was her assertion that with schools in trouble and the economy in a state of near-collapse, she was willing to consider reforms that until now have been anathema to the union, including the way in which tenure is awarded, the manner in which teachers are assigned and merit pay.

Here we go again as both Herbert and Weingarten engage in the more subtle type of teacher bashing by putting issues like tenure, merit pay and the assignment of teachers on the table as the causes of the problems in education. What Herbert doesn't get is that these ideas have not been anathema to the UFT/AFT.

Rather than pointing out how all these market-based ideas won't work and will in fact damage education, Weingarten goes along with the plan.

The economic crisis is a gift to Weingarten who can use it to justify giving away the store.

Now let me make this clear. This is not just a tactic of Randi Weingarten. Albert Shanker started rolling this ball down the alley 25 years ago and Randi is giving it her own spin. And as far back as 1975 Shanker used the economic crisis in NYC to go along with the layoffs of 15,000 teachers, the cutting of prep periods, the freezing of salaries for years, the closing of schools and lost of other attacks on education, all the while using teacher pension funds to help bail out the city.

When these attacks come this time, the script Weingarten will use was written by Shanker 33 years ago.

What UFT and AFT members need to see clearly is that Randi Weingarten is not there to represent their interests but to serve as the agent for the phony ed reformers in selling teachers on the plan even if it leads to undermining the union at its core.

She does this piecemeal by using scare tactics and saying, "see they wanted the whole loaf and we gave them only 75% but look at the victory in preserving 25%." We have seen it is only a matter of time until the other 25% goes too.

What do the teacher unions get out of this? While teachers at the school level see their unionism destroyed, the union at the top flourishes with incoming dues, a seat (minor) at the table and a sense of power and influence - for the leadership – while the members flail helplessly.

People like Joel Klein don't want the UFT to go away. They serve a much needed function and the political and business/corporate powers that be will continue to praise Weingarten as one of them.

And, so she is.

Related: Ed Notes is inviting people to join in a series of discussions on the role the current leadership of unions is playing and will play in the context of the economic crisis and what the rank and file would need to do to fight back in what is a two front war that attacks them from both sides. Hopefully this will lead to a more in depth analysis. If interested, let us know.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Klonsky and Meier on Arne Duncan

From Susan Ohanian

Obama’s Choice for Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, Seen as Compromise Between Divided Strands

by Mike Klonsky and Deborah Meier

Democracy Now

Susan says:
There is a lot of game-playing and positioning in this discussion. Is Mike Klonsky keeping his options open, or what? Duncan as a "centrist" candidate when he says?

I think Arne Duncan has the potential to be a good Secretary of Education, and I
think he has some real positives going for him.

Read Henry Giroux and Kenneth Saltman on Duncan's corporate brand of schooling and Obama's betrayal of public schools.

After reading Susan's comments I took a good look at what Deb Meier said. Read it all but here are just a few words and though I think she is being careful, she makes some important points:

So, first of all, I think we’re—it’s not two sides. It’s sort of a—it’s different views about the purpose of education, and there are different views about how human beings learn well. And I think there’s a very predominant view right now that gets—has been called by the name of reform and that has nothing to do with red and blue. It’s a kind of market view of education, though. And I
think there are a lot of people on the red side who are more close to my views and a lot of people of the blue side who are more close to Arne Duncan’s views. And that part does worry me, maybe even more than it does Klonsky, my friend Mike Klonsky, because it’s—I think we need a different discussion about what the point of education is.

[O]nce you’ve posed the issue as being union lackeys or reformers—and the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, a variety of magazines, as you mentioned earlier, have said there are two sides: unions lackeys, people who want to—who are worrying—you know, who are dependent upon the union, and on the other side are real reformers. I think it made it hard for the union to speak for its own membership on this question. And the history of reform has almost nothing to do—I shouldn’t say that. There has always been a struggle between these two wings in reform. But they have posed me as an anti-reformer, as though there are—since I’m not for market-style reforms, this testing mania, this narrow focus on prepping kids for a small selection of skills, that makes me a dupe of the union and an anti-reformer and someone who doesn’t care for the future of the economy or democracy. I think it’s been posed that way for so many years now.

Friday, December 19, 2008

ICE Video on MS 399X Protest

ICE video on the "DEC 17 - MS399 Protest against closing/phase out designation by city" is posted.

Click to see:
Since I'm still cavorting in Mexico and having trouble with keyboards, getting online and the impact of a constant influx of mohitos and margaritas, here are some nice links from Susan Ohanian. And Antonucci at Intercepts makes sure to focus on the anti-Duncan positions of the left with this headline: Commies Don’t Like Duncan

Gee, next Mike will be telling us to hide under school desks because of the Soviet threat.

Susan says:

Much of the news items concern Arne Duncan.
Read them all because each offers a somewhat different perspective.

If you can read only one, then Henry A. Giroux and Kenneth Saltman's piece is not to be missed.

Gary Stager's Huffington Post piece. "Obama Practices Social Promotion"

No School Left Unsold: Arne Duncan's Privatization Agenda

Jesse Sharkey 2008-12-18

A Chicago teacher continues to speak out about Arne Duncan.

17,000 kids have no school library
Meredith Koloner, New York Daily News2008-12-11

Ohanian suggests that we call on our professional organizations to redress this grievance.

Controversy brews over move of Richard R. Green High School from Upper East Side to Harlem

Joe Kemp and Merdith Kolodner, New York Daily News, 2008-12-18

Charge of racism surfaced over a plan to move a mostly minority Upper East Side high school to Harlem to make way for the children of wealthy white local residents.

The Takeover at the New School

Here are some videos:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Darn! Missed the DA

I was out of town so I missed the scinitilating Delegate Assembly as described by James over at the ICE blog. There was an ICE leaflet on closing schools and ATRs. James said the teachers and students from IS 399 which is being closed where there and as we reported yesterday the UFT is attempting to control the spigot of militancy.

The announcement that the New School is being occupied today following on the takeover of the Chicago factory may pressage a new day in militancy and the UFT and the rest of the labor movement will have to work doubly hard to control things.

I remember a time in my early years of teaching when a militant parent group occupied the District 14 offices for months. That was my first exposure to political activism - I went over to visit one day. That was pretty dumb as I was new to my school and had a year to go till tenure. But I figured it was a free country.

The next day my principal called me into his office and asked me about that. Okaaay! I get it. Lucky he was on terminal leave and his replacement tried to reign me in, he just was too milktoast to do it. Things might have been different if a real power freak as principal had been there.

I probably would have been denied tenure and ended up as a (fill in the blank)_________.

Note: The spell check on this computer does it in Spanish so excuse the typos.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Teachers at Closing Bronx School Hold Protest....

...UFT will be there in ususal role of undermining militancy.

Oh, Randi, the enabler of closing schools, will be there to cry crocodile tears and commiserate. UFT officials will be there to tell teachers their "rights" - their rights to join the growing ATR pool from which they will have to race around the city applying for jobs with all the other ATRs and then be branded incompetent a year later if they are not hired and then with the help of the UFT be councelled on how to make a settlement with the DOE.

And sadly, the teachers at MS 399X, grasping at straws, will have no choice but to buy it.

Imagine if every school being closed held a protest on the same day all over the city? That will never happen with a UFT that plays the role of easing the closings for the DOE, not fighting them.

If one day there is a massively organized opposition to Unity, this is exactly what could happen. But that day is still far away.

Schmidt on Duncan/ Media Failure on Fair Reporting

Crony Capitalism in Education
Take another look at that slimy AFT letter by Randi Weingarten to the New York Times in the context of Substance editor George Schmidt's analysis.
by George Schmidt
Arne Duncan's career has been in crony capitalism, Chicago style. Since he was appointed "CEO" of Chicago's public schools by Mayor Richard M. Daley in July 2001, he has been responsible for the greatest expansion of patronage hiring (generally, but not exclusively, at the central and "area" offices, but often as well in the schools) on the CPS payroll since the Great Depression (when the school system was controlled by politicians, leading to its near-demise in 1945).
Duncan has also presided over more "no bid" contracts from contractors (for everything from buildings and computer hardward and software to charter schools) in the history of the City of Chicago abd its public schools. Finally, and equally important, Arne Duncan has closed "failing schools" (dubiously defined by low test scores for one or two years, often because of special circumstances at the schools) in Chicago's African American community.
Since Duncan became CEO, he has eliminated 2,000 black teachers from Chicago's teaching force, undoing decades of desegregation and affirmative action in the name of "school reform." Last year (2007-2008) Duncan began a program he called "Turnaround" (based on the corporate models) that was actually reconstitution.
He fired most of the teachers and principals in six public schools (four elementary schools; two high schools). At each of those six schools, the majority of the teachers and principals were black.
Were Arne Duncan living and working in Mississippi in 1952, it would be easy for the USA to see what he is and has been up to in the service of corporate Chicago. Because he plays ball not only with Barack Obama but with Richard M. Daley and corporate Chicago, Chicago's white blindspot has ignored the fact that Duncan has gotten rid of more African American educators than most Mississippi and other southern governments during those dark days just before Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
The reason why the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) can promote Duncan's candidacy is that seven years of turmoil within Chicago's union has left the union badly split (and weakened).
Arne Duncan does not have the support of Chicago's teachers. He has the support of the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Marilyn Stewart, who is in the midst of a purge of her own staff and elected administration. Stewart, a lame duck officer with no more chance of re-election than George W. Bush, is viewed by the majority of Chicago Teachers Union members as a traitor to her union and the teaching profession.

— George N. SchmidtSubstance2008-12-14
FAIR Media Report:

Media's Failing Grade on Education 'Debate'
President-elect Barack Obama chose Chicago schools superintendent Arne Duncan as his nominee for Education secretary after an almost entirely one-sided media discussion that portrayed the most progressive candidate in the running for the post--Stanford educational researcher Linda Darling-Hammond--as an unacceptable pick.

Corporate media accounts presented the selection as a choice between "reformers who demand more accountable schools" and "defenders of the complacent status quo," as a Chicago Tribune editorial put it (12/9/08), claiming that the selection would determine whether Obama "wants to revolutionize the public education industry or merely wants to throw more money at it."

The Washington Post's December 5 editorial was headlined, "A Job for a Reformer: Will Barack Obama Opt for Boldness or t he Status Quo in Choosing an Education Secretary?" The Post warned readers about "warring camps within the Democratic Party," which they characterized as "those pushing for radical restructuring and those more wedded to the status quo."
Such loaded language was not confined to editorials. The Associated Press' Libby Quaid (12/15/08 ) summarized the debate this way:

Teachers' unions, an influential segment of the party base, want an advocate for their members, someone like Obama adviser Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor, or Inez Tenenbaum, the former S.C. schools chief.
Reform advocates want someone like New York schools chancellor Joel Klein, who wants teachers and schools held accountable for the performance of students.

These were almost the same terms adopted by conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks (12/5/08):

On the one hand, there are the reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, who support merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards. On the other hand, there are the teachers' unions and the members of the Ed School establishment, who emphasize greater funding, smaller class sizes and superficial reforms.

Brooks' exemplar of the "establishment view" was Darling-Hammond, who seems to have attracted the same kind of fury from the actual establishment that was visited on Lani Guinier during the early days of the Clinton administration (Extra!, 7-8/93). As the Tribune editorialized:

If Obama awards the post to Darling-Hammond or someone else reluctant to smash skulls, he'll be telegraphing that the education industry has succeeded in outlasting the Bush push for increasingly tough performance standards in schools. That would, though, be a message of gratitude to the teachers unions that contributed money and shoe leather to his election campaign.Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter (12/15/08) echoed the same theme: "Obama also knows that if he chooses a union-backed candidate such as Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford professor active in the transition, he'll have a revolt on his hands from the swelling ranks of reformers."

Strangely, in corporate media's view, the selection of someone who would continue the education policies of the Bush administration would to signal that Obama favored serious change, even "radical reform" (in Brooks' words). The Tribune again:

The Bush administration exploited this post not only to help promote crucial No Child Left Behind legislation, but to follow up by making schools more accountable for how well their students do--or don't--learn.

Will that emphasis on accountability now intensify? Or will it wither as opponents of dramatic change reclaim lost clout? We trust that Obama instead will make a statement for real improvement.

Voices in support of Darling-Hammond were hard to find in corporate media: There was an op-ed backing her in her local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle (12/12/08), and a couple of prominent letters to the editor--one by Darling-Hammond herself (New York Times, 12/12/08) responding to the Brooks column, and another in the Washington Post (12/11/08):

The claim that Ms. Darling-Hammond represents the "status quo" is ludicrous.... She was the founding executive director of the National Commission for Teaching and America's Future, a panel whose work catalyzed major policy changes to improve the quality of teacher education.
She has been a powerful voice for the fundamental principle that all children deserve a well-prepared and properly supported teacher. She has advocated for strong accountability and has offered thoughtful alternatives--a balanced system of measures to evaluate higher-order thinking skills. And she has urged federal policies that would stop the micromanagement of schools and start ensuring educational equity--an issue only the federal government can tackle. Corporate media have thus far been mostly pleased with Obama's nominations--in large part because the president-elect's moves have been seen as staying close to the media-approved "centrism." (FAIR Media Advisory, 11/26/08).
The media unease with the possibility of a progressive pick for education secretary was dealt with by Alfie Kohn in the Nation (12/29/08):
Progressives are in short supply on the president-elect's list of cabinet nominees. When he turns his attention to the Education Department, what are the chances he'll choose someone who is educationally progressive?

In fact, just such a person is said to be in the running and, perhaps for that very reason, has been singled out for scorn in Washington Post and Chicago Tribune editorials, a New York Times column by David Brooks and a New Republic article, all published almost simultaneously this month. The thrust of the articles, using eerily similar language, is that we must reject the "forces of the status quo" which are "allied with the teachers' unions" and choose someone who represents "serious education reform."

One prominent exception to the corporate media's one-sided presentation of the Education nominee search was Sam Dillon's news article in the New York Times (12/14/08). Not only did it avoid caricaturing Darling-Hammond by citing views of both her critics and supporters, the article included some accurate media criticism:

Editorials and opinion articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have described the debate as pitting education reformers against those representing the educational establishment or the status quo. But who the reformers are depends on who is talking.

Unfortunately, in most establishment media accounts, only one side has been allowed to do the talking.

Feel free to respond to FAIR ( ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Duncan Is It

Arne Duncan has tried to cultivate a middle position but in fact is is Klein lite, as has been pointed out by others. I'm out of the country so can't comment extensively but here are a few so far.- Norm

Hello All,

And so, just as it took a Republican to initiate trade with China, it is taking a Democrat to destroy (what's left of) the teacher's unions and public education.In a perverse way, Klein would have been the better choice, since he's such a polarizing figure, and his appointment might have led to more static. Duncan seems to be smoother, making him more dangerous.Randi, of course, played her part in this, blowing a kiss to Duncan just the other day. Was that the public statement and capitulation - the first of many more to come - Obama was waiting for?

Michael Fiorillo

Teachers in Chicago are sorry to see the CEO of the schools here being promoted.
In the past couple of years Chicago has been turning public schools over to private operators (mainly in the form of charters and contracts) at a rate of about 20/year. The city has also resuscitated some of the worst ideas of the 90's like firing all the teachers in low-performing schools (called 'turn-arounds') while at the same time eliminating many Local School Councils and making school decisions without public input. Charter schools and test-score driven 'choice' have been the watchwords of Duncan's rule in Chicago. Expect more of the same in Washington DC.

But in case anyone is wondering what kind of a person we appear to be getting as Secretary of Education. Duncan is a tool. To me, the thing that made clear Duncan's role came after three months of organizing against the Chicago Board of Education's proposal to install a Naval Academy at our community high school, Senn HS.

After an inspiring campaign that had involved literally hundreds of people in the biggest campaign the area had seen in decades, we forced Duncan to come up to our neighborhood to listen to our case for keeping the military out of our school. Over three hundred of us--parents, teachers, and community supporters held a big meeting in a local church and, at the end of the meeting, we asked Duncan to postpone the decision to put the military school at Senn. Duncan's answer was a classic--he said, 'I come from a Quaker family and I've always been against war. But I'm going to put the Naval Academy in there because it will give people in the community more choices.'

When push came to shove Duncan was always a loyal henchman of the Daley political machine--albeit with a style that made it seem like he was listening and a knack for a sympathetic phrase--the kind of person who will look a t you with a straight face and tell you that, as a person with a Quaker background, he supports a military school, and in a community that is fighting as hard as it can against some Daley-Department of Defense backroom deal, that he is ignoring us because it will give the community more choices.

Jesse Sharkey
Chicago Public Schools Teacher

Editorial: Duncan's agenda and Paul Bremer's

Substance Editorial Staff

Picture Paul Bremer, the erstwhile “viceroy” of Baghdad, only without the boots. You now have Arne Duncan and his troupe of zealots privatizing everything in sight at the Chicago Board of Education and in the “Office of New Schools.” Of course, just as Bremer would have been nothing without George W. Bush and the crazies in the Washington Think Tanks that write the privatization scripts for the world, so Duncan would just be another washed up former professional ball player if Mayor Daley and his corporate buddies weren’t backing his massive privatization plans.

For the past six years, we’ve watched while Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan lied repeatedly to the public about how and why he was closing dozens of public schools. Duncan was not trying to improve public schools in Chicago for all children, but was in command of a ruthless privatization plan that is designed to undermine traditional notions of public education for urban children and replace them with a crackpot version of “market choice” that exists only for the wealthy and the powerful.

The key to Duncan’s ability to get away with the Big Lie, however, is not Duncan’s own eloquence, but the face that he has the backing of Chicago’s ruling class. From the CEOs of the city’s largest corporations (organized into the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club) to the editorial boards of the two power daily newspapers, Duncan’s lies are amplified every day, and except for the pages of this newspaper and a few other places, unchallenged in the public arena where democratic debate is supposed to take place.

After we reviewed the school closings in Chicago since 2001, when Mayor Daley appointed Duncan the second “Chief Executive Officer” in CPS history, the shocking details began to become clear. Not only were poor black children being forced out of their homes (public housing reform, it was called), but they were also being deprived over and over of access to public schools.

Comparing Duncan’s other work with massive privatizers like Paul Bremer (who headed up the Provisional Coalition Authority in Baghdad from 2003 to 2004), any clear-eyed reader can see the same pattern. These guys are not in the business of improving public school, but of stripping the assets from public services and turning unionized public servants into non-union public slaves.

For five years, we have watched thousands of people appear before the corporate stooges who constitute the Chicago Board of Education, trying to talk about what would be best for public schools. Every argument has been eloquent.

But the arguments don’t really matter, because Arne Duncan and the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education are not in the education business, they are in the privatization and charter school business. Once the public understand that, at least people can stop wasting their time talking about what’s best for the education of Chicago’s poorest children. Duncan couldn’t care less about that as long as his crimes — and they are crimes that flow from these lies — don’t make the TV news or interfere with the agenda of his mentor Richard M. Daley.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Fearless Forecaster Prediction on Darling-Hammond Chances

With the battles swirling around the potential next Education Secretary - for and against the Joel Klein/Michelle Rhee/Arne Duncan, a major attack has been launched on Linda Darling-Hammond, who has been a key advisor on Obama's ed team even though a critic of those media darlings Teach for America. Naturally, the TFA machine is sweating a bit and has been part of the attack on Darling-Hammond.

Some people are optimistic, thinking the D-H critics have gone too far. That Obama will move in her direction. Witness the John Affelt post at Huffington (which I posted at Norms Notes). Affelt opens with this:

A slickly-coordinated string of editorials and columns in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Republic, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere has poured forth recently, all decrying the possible appointment of Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond as Secretary of Education. Obviously responding to the same talking points, the pieces paint Darling-Hammond a status quo, incrementalist and anoint a new group of pro-merit pay/pro-testing/pro-charter school advocates as the hard-charging "reformers."

Darling-Hammond has spent 30 years pushing for a radical restructuring of public schools and the systems that serve them so that all students will have high-quality teachers and rich learning opportunities, not just well-off, predominantly white kids. To call her a defender of the status quo is like calling Lincoln a defender of slavery because he wasn't as absolute in opposition as were some on his team of rivals.

By drawing so heavily from the old playbook, the hard-chargers may have just charged off the cliff--virtually ensuring Obama will be less receptive to their pleas.

So I have borrowed WFAN's Steve Somers' FEARLESS FORECASTER to predict the fate of D-H. Unfortunately, I don't agree with the view that Obama will turn out to be the kind of politician who will pick D-H. He seems to look at how easy it will be to get a person confirmed. And with both Republicans and many Democrats taking a view that D-H is easy on teachers, we can expect quite a battle if Obama chooses her. On the other hand, if he chooses Duncan or Klein or Rhee, there will be screams of protest from educators but not from politicians.

Note: If you read Randi Weingarten's letter to the NY Times (posted at ed notes Dec. 13) you will see she did not put the AFT/UFT in the Darling-Hammond camp at all - which shows how the union lines up as more political than educational. A recent quote is in effect an endorsement of Arne Duncan: “We have no candidate in the race,” Ms. Weingarten said. But last week she publicly praised Mr. Duncan in an interview with The Associated Press. “Arne Duncan,” she said, “actually reaches out and tries to do things in a collaborative way.”

FEARLESS says that Obama will go the route of least protest and choose some non-controversial politician who is palatable to all sides. After all, Obama himself has gone both ways on education and left people guessing.

Thus, FEARLESS' prediction is that for Darling-Hammond, becoming Education Secretary is

More Speculation on Education Secretary at Norms Notes.