The Alt Right Has a Friend in Common Core




Let’s say you’re a modern-day hipster Nazi.



You’re bummed out.



No one wants to hang out with you because of your bald head and your red suspenders and your commitment to the ideals of a defeated and disgraced totalitarian regime.



What are you to do?






It’s simple.



No more National Socialist German Workers Party! That sounds too pinko!



Now you’re simply a member of the Alt Right!



It’s not racist! You’re just committed to traditional attitudes and values — if those traditional attitudes and values come from 1945 Berlin!



Heck, you don’t even have to call yourself Alt Right.



You can call yourself a White Identitarian.


You aren’t over-concerned with any one side of the political spectrum or other. You just strongly identify with whiteness — and by extension increasing the political power of white people at the expense of all others.



That’s all.



It should be obvious that this isn’t merely rebranding. It’s propaganda.


In today’s fast paced information age – where every fact is merely a Google away – that can be hard to get away with – UNLESS



Unless you already have a readymade tool to protect propaganda from the kind of informed critical thought that can pop it like a bubble. Something to insolate the ignorance and keep out the enlightened analysis.



I am, of course, talking about Common Core.






How does Common Core have anything to do with white nationalism?



Common Core is just a set of academic standards for what should be taught in public schools adopted by 42 of 50 states.



Academic standards aren’t political. Are they?


Actually, they are. Quite political.


Just take a look at how the standards came to be adopted in the first place.


The Obama administration bribed and coerced the states to adopt these standards before many of them were even done being written.



Hold your horses. The Obama administration!? That doesn’t sound exactly like a friend of the Third Reich.


And it wasn’t.



It was a friend to big business.


When first created, these standards weren’t the result of a real educational need, nor were they written by classroom educators and psychologists. They were written by the standardized testing industry as a ploy to get federal, state and local governments to recommit to standardized testing through buying new tests, new text books, new software and new remediation materials.



It was a bipartisan effort supported by the likes of Obama, the Clintons and Bill Gates on the left and Jeb Bush, Betsy DeVos and Bobby Jindal on the right.



After Obama’s success pushing them down our collective throats, many Republicans vocally decried the standards – often while quietly supporting them.


That’s why after all this time very few state legislatures have repealed them despite being controlled predominantly by Republicans.


Okay, so what does this have to do with the Alt Right?



People like Steve Bannon and Donald Trump are engaged in redefining the conservative movement. Instead of circulating ideas with a merely racist and classist undertone, they want to make those subtleties more explicit.


Most aren’t about to hop out of the closet and declare themselves open Nazis or members of the Hitler fan club, but they want to make it clear exactly how wunderbar the Fuhrer’s ideals are with a wink and a smirk.


For instance, Trump’s campaign slogan: Make America Great Again.



When exactly was America great? When white people had unchallenged political and social power and minorities and people of color knew their place. That’s when.



This is obvious to some of us, but we face a real obstacle making it obvious to others.


And that obstacle is Common Core.



A generation of Americans have been brought up with these shoddy academic standards that don’t develop critical thinking but actively suppress it.



For instance, take the absurd ravings of the Core’s chief writer – and current head of the College Board – David Coleman.



Going counter to the thinking of nearly every expert on literacy, he emphasized cold or close reading over reading text in context.



In particular, he said:



“Do you know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today?…It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with these two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people don’t really give a shit about what you feel or think… It is a rare working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.”



Later, he added:



“The most popular 3rd grade standard in American today…is what is the difference between a fable, a myth, a tale, and a legend? The only problem with that question is that no one knows what the difference is and no one probably cares what the difference is either.”


And finally:



“This close reading approach forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all students.”



However, Coleman was dead wrong on all counts.



What you think and feel IS important. The requirements of the corporate world ARE NOT the only reasons to teach something. Being able to distinguish between similar but different concepts IS important. And context is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to understanding!


For instance, today’s spin doctor Nazis soon realized that you can’t go goose stepping down main street blindly espousing how much better it is to be white — better than, say, being black or Jewish.



But you can hang up posters in college campuses that say the same sort of thing in a cutesy, passive aggressive way. For instance: “It’s okay to be white.”


If we look just at the text, as Coleman advises, we see a rather innocuous statement.



There’s nothing racist here. It’s just a simple statement that being white is also acceptable.



However, if we add back the context, we find an indirect racial undertone.


These posters weren’t put up willy nilly. They were hung on college campuses where white nationalists wearing MAGA hats were recruiting. They were pasted over Black Lives Matter posters, accompanying drawings of Donald Trump.




In context, then, this statement doesn’t just mean “It’s okay to be white.” It means “It’s okay to be pro-white supremacist, to be pro-white power.”



And that brings up two other examples.



MAGA – Make America Great Again.


Take it out of context and it’s innocuous. It just means to increase the abstract greatness of the country to what it was at some unspecified time in the past.


However, if we put that statement in the context of the Trump campaign and its xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, etc. — then it’s meaning becomes clear. As noted above, it’s an ode to white power and nostalgia for greater white privilege.



And “Black Lives Matter”? Why do many of these same Identitarians take exception to that slogan and the movement behind it?



The Alt Right says BLM is reverse racist. They claim the name BLM means “ONLY black lives matter.”



Context tells us differently.



The BLM group was formed in response to the indiscriminate murder of people of color and those who committed these crimes not behind held accountable. Officer Darren Wilson not indicted for killing Michael Brown. Officer Daniel Pantaleo not indicted for killing Eric Garner. Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback not indicted for killing Tamir Rice. And on and on.



Yet the Alt Right is allowed to mischaracterize a simple call for peace as if it identified a terrorist organization.



Why? Because context has been banished from the building.




I’m not saying that Common Core has caused these problems, but it has allowed them.


I doubt this is what Coleman, who is Jewish, intended.



But whenever you water down critical thinking – even if it’s for purely practical ends – you end up hurting everyone.



The best societies praise intellect and tolerance.



For all their faults, our founders knew this. That’s why they emphasized the importance of public education.



If we had ensured everyone in the country had access to the best possible education, this modern Nazi subculture wouldn’t be able to make as much headway as it has.



This is yet another way that our obsession with unrestrained capitalism, neoliberalism and plutocracy has put us on a road that may end in fascism.


Go Ahead, SCOTUS. Rule Against Unions in Janus Case. You’ll Only Make Us Stronger





The corporate owned far right has been trying to destroy labor unions for decades.


But this time they may have finally overplayed their hand.


The upcoming Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case set for a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb 26 has been billed as the final nail in the coffin for public sector unions.


With the pitifully weak Democrats giving up President Obama’s pick for the bench in favor of Trump’s absurd choice, Neil Gorsuch, the court has a decidedly conservative bias.


So court watchers expect the latest challenge to collective bargaining rights to come out in favor of the corporations and billionaires who have spent truckloads of money to ensure the little guy has less of a say in the workplace.


BUT! They aren’t taking into account how stupid these far right shills truly are!


The case comes down to this: some people working in a union job don’t think they should have to pay union dues even though they benefit from the contract negotiated by their union. They affirm that being part of a union is political speech and thus they cannot be compelled to pay – yet somehow they should be able to keep all the benefits of being in a union, anyway.


So the union gets me a raise and better healthcare, but – even though none of my dues go to pay for political campaigns (that money is donated separately and voluntarily) – just being in a union is a political act.


If the court rules in favor of this position, unions would no longer be able to compel members to pay dues.


Pay them, don’t pay them – there’s nothing the union could do.


Conservatives are betting that if dues become voluntary on a person-by-person basis, at least a few members will opt out and thus weaken union finances and ability to collectively bargain for everyone.


But what they don’t seem to understand is that a decision like this would overturn decades of established law.


It would overturn mountains of legal decisions that provide the foundation for how our government works.


In short, how many times are we compelled to pay for things we don’t necessarily believe in?


Answer: every freakin’ day!


How much of my tax dollars go to the military? What if I don’t want my taxes used to pay for a bloated war machine?


How much of my hard earned money is wasted on corporate subsidies? What if I don’t want to prop up huge multinational businesses already making record profits?


How much of my money go to privatized schools? What if I’m against charter and voucher schools and want my taxes instead to fund fully public schools with elected boards, transparency and who have to accept all students regardless of ability?


If the court rules against unions, then I guess I won’t have to pay my taxes anymore – or at very least, I will have to be given the option of where my tax dollars go.


Not just SOME of my tax dollars – every single penny on a line-by-line basis for every single tax payer in the United States!


An Illinois based engineering union wrote in detail about exactly how such a ruling would change the landscape. Operating Engineers Local 150, wrote on their blog titled, “Union Busters Set Themselves Up for Janus Backfire”:



“If not bargaining is protected free speech, then bargaining will conversely be protected free speech, giving union workers new protections that we’ve never enjoyed before.  For example:

  1. Governor Scott Walker’s now infamous Act 10, the law that destroyed public sector collective bargaining in Wisconsin, will be declared an unconstitutional, content-based restriction on speech and association.


  1. Every state in America will now be subject to bargaining with their public sector employees, even if they didn’t previously.



  1. Local municipalities will be subject to numerous taxpayer lawsuits based upon forced contributions to lobbying groups.


  1. The municipal lobbying industry, currently an extremely large source of revenue for lobbyists, will be decimated as taxpayers now have a First Amendment right to demand their tax dollars are not used for lobbying or political advocacy.



  1. Public Sector pensions will be adversely affected as participants demand that their forced pension contributions are not used for corporate speech.


  1. Municipal advertising, tax increment financing, and all other types of tax breaks (think Foxxcon in Wisconsin) will be subject to litigation based upon taxpayers’ First Amendment rights to opt-out of this type of speech. The same burdensome calculations that are currently leveled only upon unions would become widespread.”


Shaun Richman, a former organizing director for the American Federation of Teachers, agrees.


In an article for In These Times called “How A Supreme Court Decision to Gut Public Sector Unions Could Backfire,” he writes:



“The ruling could both wildly increase workers’ bargaining power and clog the lower courts with First Amendment challenges to routine uses of taxpayer money. At a minimum, it has the potential to turn every public sector workplace dispute into a constitutional controversy…”



Frankly, this is kind of exciting.


In trying to stifle workers’ free speech, conservatives may unravel the statutes that have muzzled us for years.


A decision against unions by the Supreme Court would open the way for thousands of cases throughout the court system – challenge after challenge. Certainly conservative justices would try to staunch the tide, but they simply couldn’t stop every case – especially after such a dangerous precedent has been set!


The SCOTUS would be unleashing chaos on the justice system, and I, for one, hope that every workers union takes advantage of it.


Every individual across the political spectrum should file suit against whichever political peccadillo they want. Evangelicals can file against public schools using their tax dollars to teach evolution. Libertarians could file against having a standing army. Liberals could file against oil pipelines.


And on and on and on.


Meanwhile, those workers unions that conservatives are hoping will be destroyed will be just fine.


You think workers won’t pay their union dues? Some might try, but doing so will have immense personal ramifications. At very least, it will make those individuals social pariahs. Who wants to associate with someone who thinks they should get all the benefits without paying like everyone else?


Moreover, I don’t advocate violence against anyone, but stiffing your co-workers on your union dues is a sure fire way to get slashed tires. Do you put your lunch in a communal fridge? I wouldn’t eat that after word gets out you’re a free rider. Not unless you like to share your co-worker’s saliva.


Again, I’m not advocating for any of that, but it’s just the way humans behave. We don’t like paying for any other able-bodied person whose “political” decision puts our lives and livelihoods in jeopardy.


The end result of a ruling against unions would forever put collective bargaining rights firmly under the protection of the First Amendment.


It would protect all speech – including union rights.


So I say, go ahead, SCOTUS, make our day!

Dear Donald Trump, Please Try to Block Publication of My Book, Too

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Dear Donald Trump,


May I just say, Wow, Sir? You are really very impressive.


I know some people say you’re a stupid overgrown man child, but you really had an amazing comeback when you tweeted you were actually a “very stable genius.”


I mean “very stable genius”!


Well done, sir.


How could anyone ever come back from that devastating response?


Oh, and your answer to Michael Wolff was likewise inspiring.


He is such an ingrate.


You invited this guy, this reporter, into the White House – the Summer Mar-a-Lago – so he could conduct candid interviews and observe you and your staff for the express purpose of writing a book. Now that the book, “Fire and Fury,” is coming out, you see that it paints an unflattering picture of you. So you have your lawyers send Wolff a cease and desist letter attempting to stop its publication.


That is ballsy, sir.


Obama wouldn’t have done that. Neither would either of the Bushes, or Reagan or even your hero Andrew Jackson. They had too much respect for the First Amendment – whatever that is.


I hear it won’t work though. Wolff’s book was released early and it’s already a best seller, but I’ve got to take my hat off to you, sir, for your sheer bigly courage.


Wolff’s book’s already sold more than 250,000 copies and the author attributes much of that to your attempts to block publication.


But what does he know? He’s not President. You are, sir. And as you once said, “I’m like a smart person.”


That you are, sir. Not actually smart, but very much LIKE a smart person.


You know you’re so smart that I think you might want to consider blocking the publication of some other books, too.


Why should someone as YUGE and important as you focus all your energy on people like Wolff… and Kim Jong-un?


You know the other day I was walking by my local book store – yes, they still exist. Believe me! – and I saw another book you should really think about coming down on.


It’s called “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform.”


It’s by this total nerd Steven Singer. He’s one of those liberal elites, an educator spending his whole day with little children most of whom are poor, black and brown.


Disgusting, right?


And his book’s all about how racism drives the movement to destroy public education through high stakes standardized testing, charter and voucher schools.


Wait. Did I just lose you there? I haven’t mentioned you in a few paragraphs.


Hold on.


Trump! Trump! TRUMP!


Is that better?




Anyway, you might not think his book has anything to do with you, sir, but if you take a look inside, you’ll see he slams you and your administration again and again.


The introduction, alone, contains these disrespectful zingers:


“…behold the glass menagerie of fools Trump has assembled to populate his administration…”


“…the tired rhetoric of Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South coming out of his [Trump’s] mouth…”


“…Trump is a monster and he’s assembled a cabinet of monstrosities to back him up. But that doesn’t make him scary. The best way to fight monsters is to turn on the light. And we have the brightest light of all – the light of knowledge, experience and wisdom.”


“We can take Tiny Hands, the Bankruptcy King any day! This is a guy who couldn’t make a profit running casinos – you know, a business where the house always wins! You expect us to cower in fear that he’s going to take away our schools. Son, we’ve fought better than you!


Trump represents a clear and present danger to our nation, our people and our schools. But we represent a clear and present danger to him. He hasn’t even been sworn in yet and the clock is already ticking. He’ll be lucky to last four years in the ring with us.”


Ah! Such a nasty man!


It probably makes you want to grab this guy by his pussy!


Could you imagine the look on this dude’s face if you were to send him a cease and desist letter? If you offered a criticism of his failing school at a press conference? Even if you just sent out a withering tweet about this sad loser?


Can you imagine how something like that might affect the sale of his book?


It’s selling pretty well for a book about education, but a comment from you would have a huge effect.


It would sell like hotcakes – by which I mean sell badly because who eats hotcakes, anymore, just McDonalds and KFC and well done steak with ketchup, Am-I-Right?


When you say something, people listen.


When you said, “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed,” you boosted sales of his 1845 “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” through the roof. It’s almost like people wanted to check to see if you really mentioned someone who died in 1895 like he was a contemporary figure walking around, going on TV and giving interviews.


Since you took office, you got the cash registers ringing with increased sales of “1984” by George Orwell, “March: Book One” by John Lewis, “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.


Everything you touch just turns to gold!


Or perhaps it already was gold, since you take your morning constitutional on a gold throne.


Take out your smart phone, sir, and give this Steven Singer and his book a good spanking.


Call your lawyers into the bathroom and have them draft a letter.


The book is called “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform.”


You want to make sure to include that in the tweet or letter.


It’s available at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBoundBooks-A-Million and as an E-book on Amazon.


Make sure everyone can see that is the book you’re criticizing.


You’ll have an incredible impact on the author.


After a smack from you, his life – and pocketbook – will never be the same.


So get out your tweeter, sir. And let’s sell some books!


I mean teach this guy a lesson. Then enjoy a steaming cup of covfefe.



The Different Flavors of School Segregation



The most salient feature of the United States Public School System – both yesterday and today – is naked, unapologetic segregation.


Whether it be in 1954 when the Supreme Court with Brown v. Board made it illegal in word or today when our schools have continued to practice it in deed. In many places, our schools at this very moment are more segregated than they were before the Civil Rights movement.


That’s just a fact.


But what’s worse is that we don’t seem to care.


And what’s worse than that is we just finished two terms under our first African American President – and HE didn’t care. Barack Obama didn’t make desegregation a priority. In fact, he supported legislation to make it worse.


Charter schools, voucher schools, high stakes standardized testing, strategic disinvestment – all go hand-in-hand to keep America Separate and Unequal.


In this article, I’m going to try to explain in the most simple terms I know the reality of segregation in our schools, how it got there and the various forms it takes.


I do this not because I am against public education. On the contrary, I am a public school teacher and consider myself a champion of what our system strives to be but has never yet realized. I do this because until we recognize what we are doing and what many in power are working hard to ensure we will continue doing and in fact exacerbate doing, we will never be able to rid ourselves of a racist, classist disease we are inflicting on ourselves and on our posterity.


America, the Segregated


It’s never been one monolithic program. It’s always been several co-existing parallel social structures functioning together in tandem that create the society in which we live.


Social segregation leads to institutional segregation which leads to generational, systematic white supremacy.


This is as true today as it was 50 years ago.


I’m reminded of possibly the best description of American segregation on record, the words of the late great African American author James Baldwin who said the following on the Dick Cavett Show in 1968:



“I don’t know what most white people in this country feel. But I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions. I don’t know if white Christians hate Negroes or not, but I know we have a Christian church that is white and a Christian church that is black. I know, as Malcolm X once put it, the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday.


That says a great deal for me about a Christian nation. It means I can’t afford to trust most white Christians, and I certainly cannot trust the Christian church.


“I don’t know whether the labor unions and their bosses really hate me — that doesn’t matter — but I know I’m not in their union. I don’t know whether the real estate lobby has anything against black people, but I know the real estate lobby is keeping me in the ghetto. I don’t know if the board of education hates black people, but I know the textbooks they give my children to read and the schools we have to go to.


“Now this is the evidence. You want me to make an act of faith, risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.”



As Baldwin states, there are many different ways to keep black people segregated. There are many different flavors of the same dish, many different strains of the same disease.



We can say we’re against it, but what we say doesn’t matter unless it is tied to action.



You can say you’re in favor of equity between black and white people all day long, but if the policies you support don’t accomplish these things, you might as well wear a white hood and burn a cross on a black person’s lawn. It would at least be more honest.



Segregated Schools



In terms of public education, which is the area I know most about and am most concerned with here, our schools are indeed set up to be segregated.



If there is one unstated axiom of our American Public School System it is this: the worst thing in the world would be black and white children learning together side-by-side.



I’m not saying that anyone goes around saying this. As Baldwin might say, it doesn’t matter. What matters is how we act, and judging by our laws and practices, this is the evidence.



The sentiment seems to be: Black kids should learn here, white kids should learn there, and never the two should meet.



Our laws are explicitly structured to allow such practices. And that’s exactly what we do in almost every instance.



It’s just who we are.



So, you may ask, how can a public school teacher like myself support such a system.



The answer is that I don’t.



I support the ideals behind the system. I support the idea of a public system that treats everyone equitably.



That’s what it means to have a public system and not a private one. And that’s an ideal we would be wise to keep – even if we’ve never yet lived up to it.



Many people today are trying to destroy those ideals by attacking what exists. And they’re trying to do it, by acts of sabotage.



They point to inequalities they, themselves, helped create and use them to push for a system that would create even worse inequality. They point to the segregation that they, themselves, helped install and use it as an excuse to push even more segregation.



And they do so by controlling the media and the narrative. They call themselves reformers when they’re really vandals and obstructionists looking to subvert the best in our system in order to maximize the worst.



School Segregation Today


Sure we don’t have very many all white or all black schools like we did before Brown v. Board. Instead we have schools that are just predominantly one race or another.


ALL kids are not divided by race. Just MOST of them.


The reason?


Legally and morally absolute segregation has become repugnant and impracticable. We can’t say segregation is the law of the land and then segregate. But we can set up the dominoes that spell S-E-G-R-E-G-A-T-I-O-N and then shrug when that just happens to be the result.



Partially it has to do with housing.



White people and black people tend to live in different neighborhoods. Some of this is a choice. After a history of white oppression and racial strife, people on both sides of the divide would rather live among those with whom they identify.



Black people don’t want to deal with the possibility of further deprivations. White people fear retaliation.



However, white people generally enjoy a higher socio-economic status than black people, so there is some push back from black folks who can afford to live in whiter neighborhoods and thus enjoy the benefits of integration – bigger homes, less crowding, less crime, access to more green spaces, etc. But even when there is a desire, moving to a white neighborhood can be almost impossible.


State and federal laws, local ordinances, banking policies and persistent prejudice stand in the way.



In short, red lining still exists.



Real estate agents and landlords still divide up communities based on whom they’re willing to sell or rent to.



And this is just how white people want it.


They’re socialized to fear and despise blackness and to cherish a certain level of white privilege for themselves and their families.



And if we live apart, it follows that we learn apart.



The system is set up to make this easy. Yet it is not uncomplicated. There is more than one way to sort and separate children along racial and class lines in a school system.



There are several ways to accomplish school segregation. It comes in multiple varieties, a diversity of flavors, all of which achieve the same ends, just in different ways.



By my reckoning, there are at least three distinct paths to effectively segregate students. We shall look at each in turn:



1) Segregated Districts and Schools



When you draw district lines, you have the power to determine their racial makeup.



Put the white neighborhoods in District A and the black ones in District B. It’s kind of like gerrymandering, but instead of hording political power for partisan lawmakers, you’re putting your finger on the scale to enable academic inequality.



However, sometimes you can’t do that. Sometimes you don’t have the power to determine the makeup for entire districts. Instead, you can do almost the same thing for schools within a single district.



You just send most of the black kids to School A and most of the white kids to School B. This is easy to justify if they’re already stratified by neighborhood. In this way, geographical segregation becomes the determination for the academic variety.



In fact, this is what we usually think of when we think of school segregation. And it has certain benefits for white students and costs for black ones.



Foremost, it allows white students to horde resources.



In the first case where you have segregated districts, legislation including explicit funding formulas can be devised to make sure the whiter districts get more financial support than the blacker ones. The state provides more support and the higher socio-economics of the whiter neighborhoods provides a more robust tax base to meet the needs of white children.



That means the whiter districts get higher paid and more experienced teachers. It means they have broader curriculum, more extracurricular activities, a more robust library, more well-trained nursing staff, more advanced placement courses, etc.



And – this is important – the blacker districts don’t.



Fewer funds mean fewer resources, fewer opportunities, more challenges to achieve at the same level that white students take for granted. A budget is often the strongest support for white supremacy in a given community or society as a whole. In fact, if you want to know how racist your community is, read its school budget. You want accountability? Start there.



The same holds even when segregation is instituted not at the district level but at the level of the school building.



When the people making the decisions are mostly white, they tend to steer resources to their own kids at the expense of others. Appointed state recovery bureaucrats, school boards, and administrators can provide more resources to the white schools than the black ones.



It may sound ridiculous but this is exactly what happens much of the time. You have gorgeous new buildings with first class facilities in the suburban areas and run down crumbling facilities in the urban ones – even if the two are only separated geographically by a few miles.



This is not accidental. It’s by choice.




2) Charter and Voucher Schools



And speaking of choice, we come to one of the most pernicious euphemisms in the public school arena – school choice.



It’s not really about academics or options. It’s about permitting racism.



It’s funny. When schools are properly funded and include an overabundance of resources, few people want another alternative. But when schools are underfunded and there is a black majority, that’s when white parents look for an escape for their children.



Like any parasite, charter and voucher schools only survive in the proper environment. It usually looks like this.



Sometimes no matter how you draw the district lines or how you appropriate the buildings, you end up with a black majority and a white minority. That’s a situation white parents find simply intolerable.



White children must be kept separate and given all the best opportunities even if that means taking away the same for black children.



That’s where “school choice” comes in.



It’s not a pedagogical philosophy of how to best provide an education. It’s big business meeting the demand for parental prejudice and white supremacy.



In summary, charter and voucher schools are the mechanisms of white flight. Period.



This is why the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Movement for Black Lives have condemned school privatization. It is racism as a business model. It increases segregation and destroys even the possibility of integration.



This works in two ways.



First, it allows white kids to enter new learning environments where they can be in the majority and get all the resources they need.



White parents look for any opportunity to remove their children from the black majority public school. This creates a market for charter or voucher schools to suck up the white kids and leave the black kids in their neighborhood schools.



Once again, this creates the opportunity for a resource gap. The charter and voucher schools suck away needed funds from the public schools and then are subsidized even further by white parents.



The quality of education provided at these institutions is sometimes better – it’s often worse. But that’s beside the point. It’s not about quality. It’s about kind. It’s about keeping the white kids separate and privileged. It’s about saving them from the taint of black culture and too close of an association with black people.



Second, the situation can work in reverse. Instead of dividing the whites from the blacks, it divides the blacks from the whites.



This happens most often in districts where the divide is closer to equal – let’s say 60% one race and 40% another. Charter and voucher schools often end up gobbling up the minority students and leaving the white ones in the public school. So instead of white privatized and black public schools, you get the opposite.



And make no mistake – this is a precarious position for minority students to be in. Well meaning black parents looking to escape an underfunded public school system jump to an even more underfunded privatized system that is just waiting to prey on their children.



Unlike public schools, charter and voucher institutions are allowed to pocket some of their funding as profit. That means they can reduce services and spending on children anytime they like and to any degree. Moreover, as businesses, their motives are not student centered but economically driven. They cherry pick only the best and brightest students because they cost less to educate. They often enact zero tolerance discipline policies and run themselves more like prisons than schools. And at any time unscrupulous administrators who are under much less scrutiny than those at public schools can more easily steal student funding, close the school and run, leaving children with no where to turn but the public school they fled from in the first place and weakened by letting privatized schools gobble up the money.



The result is a public school system unnaturally bleached of color and a privatized system where minority parents are tricked into putting their children at the mercy of big business.



3) Tracking



But that’s not all. There is still another way to racially segregate children. Instead of putting them in different districts or different schools, you can just ensure they’ll be in different classes in the same school.



It’s called tracking – a controversial pedagogical practice of separating the highest achieving students from the lowest so that teachers can better meet their needs.



However, it most often results in further stratifying students socially, economically and racially.



Here’s how it works.



Often times when you have a large enough black minority in your school or district, the white majority does things to further horde resources even within an individual school building or academic department.



In such cases, the majority of the white population is miraculously given a “gifted” designation and enrolled in the advanced placement classes while the black children are left in the academic or remedial track.



This is not because of any inherent academic deficit among black students, nor is it because of a racial intellectual superiority among white students. It’s because the game has been rigged to favor white students over black ones.



Often the excuse given is test scores. Standardized tests have always been biased assessments that tend to select white and affluent students over poor black ones. Using them as the basis for class placement increases segregation in school buildings.



It enables bleaching the advanced courses and melanin-izing the others. This means administration can justify giving more resources to white students than blacks – more field trips, more speakers, more STEAM programs, more extracurriculars, etc.



And if a white parent complains to the principal that her child has not been included in the gifted program, if her child has even a modicum of ability in the given subject, more often than not that white child is advanced forward to the preferential class.






Segregation is a deep problem in our public school system. But it cannot be solved by privatization.



In fact, privatization exacerbates it.



Nor is public education, itself, a panacea. Like any democratic practice, it requires participation and the economic and social mobility to be able to participate as equals.



Schools are the product of the societies that create them. An inequitable society will create inequitable schools.



Segregation has haunted us since before the foundation of our nation.



The only way to solve it is by first calling it out and recognizing it in all its forms. Then white people have to own their role in spreading it and take steps to end it.



Segregation doesn’t just happen. It exists because white people – especially white parents – want it to exist.



They don’t want their children to be educated among black students – maybe SOME black students, maybe the best of the best black students, but certainly not the average run of the mill brown-skinned child.



This has to stop.



There are plenty of benefits even for white students in an integrated education. It provides them a more accurate world-view and helps them become empathetic and prize difference.



Moreover, nothing helps inoculate a child against racism more than a truly integrated education.



If we want our children to be better people, we should provide them with this kind of school environment.



But instead, too many of us would rather give them an unfair edge so they can do better than those around them.



Racism is not just ideological; it is economic. In a dog-eat-dog-world, we want our kids to be the wolves with their teeth in the weaker pups necks.



We need to dispel this ideal.



Our society does not need to be a zero-sum game.



We can all flourish together. We can achieve a better world for all our children when we not only realize that but prize it.



As Baldwin put it in 1989’s “The Price of a Ticket”:



“It is not a romantic matter. It is the unutterable truth: all men are brothers. That’s the bottom line.”



When that becomes a shared vision of our best selves, only then will segregation be completely vanquished.

There Has Never Been a Better Chance to Defeat Neoliberals and Neofascists: Hopes for 2018

Demonstration against G8 Summit in Le Havre


As 2017 chugs and sputters to a well-deserved end, I find myself surprised at the pessimism around me.


Yes, I know. Donald Trump is still President.


The plutocrats have stolen trillions of dollars from the majority in unnecessary tax cuts that threaten our ability to function as a nation.


A slim majority of their sniveling creatures at the FCC have repealed Net Neutrality gifting our free expression to huge corporations.


And big business continues to sack and burn our public schools only to replace them with charter and voucher swindles.


This is all true.


But it does not make me lose heart.


These defeats may be fleeting, momentary as political and legal challenges mount against them. As far as the tide has pulled back, a wave is gathering strength at sea, such a prodigious burst of water as to create a new ocean once it hits land.


Yes, we endured many scars from the year that was. But we have gained something truly amazing – something that we probably could not have grasped without our sexual predator in chief, a reality TV show conman posing as a political leader.








They see the undeniable destruction, the naked power grabs, how our lawmakers are owned by the super-rich and the outright denial of democratic principles.


They see and they understand.


It is no longer debatable that we have lost control of our government.


It is no longer a question whether our lawmakers have our best interests at heart.


It is no longer at all uncertain that business interests and public interests are not the same.


Everyone knows.


Everyone sees.


The question is “What will we do about it?”


I’m reminded of the ending of John Carpenter’s cult classic “They Live.”


In the movie, Earth is conquered by aliens but no one noticed. The aliens took over the media and government using a transmitter to hide their ugly faces so that people couldn’t see what they truly look like. These intergalactic shepherds used the media and advertising to herd us human sheep to focus on naked consumerism and ignore how we’re being consumed by the powers that be.

At the end of the movie, the hero – played by Roddy Piper – sacrifices himself to destroy the transmitter so everyone finally can see the hideous aliens among us.


I remember watching the film the first time back in the ‘80s and wondering what people would do once they could see the truth.


Would they fight? Or would they try to convince themselves that they weren’t seeing the evidence of their own eyes?


(WARNING: The video below is NSFW, contains nudity and sexual situations.)


We’re in a similar situation today.


Trump did not cause all of this. He certainly made it worse, but the groundwork was laid by years of neoliberals from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama.


Reagan and both Bushes started us rolling down into the pit, but it was the Clintons and the Obamas who convinced so many of us that we weren’t headed into oblivion, it was merely a trick of the mind, this was the direction we wanted to go and that if anyone got left behind it was merely their own darn fault.


But now the truth is right there before our faces.


And that’s thanks to the blunt, unrepentant greed of Donald J. Trump.


He steals from us and doesn’t even pretend he’s doing anything else.


He hordes our money. He destroys our laws and disregards our values. He raises racists and bigots to respectability while appointing unqualified sycophants with the expressed purpose to run our government into the ground. And if anyone dares proclaim the emperor has no clothes, all he can say is “Fake News.”


And though I thoroughly despise him for everything he’s done and continues to do bringing our world to the brink of annihilation – I also have to thank him.


There is no longer any denying the truth.


It is merely a question of how we fight.


Opportunities abound for victory, and on a scale we could not previously have dreamed.


It would take such a little push to topple this pathetic toy dictator’s regime.


Merely a whisper out of all our mouths could bring it down.


The slightest flick of the smallest finger on all our hands could send a shock wave causing this pitiful empire to crumble.


If we merely took to the streets at the same time, these dollar store monsters would dissolve in our wake.


And in their place – imagine the world we could create.


All the socialist ideals of Roosevelt’s New Deal could be realized. We could enact a NEW New Deal where everyone truly had a fair shot at flourishing.


As the Rev William Barber says, we could bring about a Third Reconstruction so that our future was firmly built on the foundation of equity and understanding for people of all races, genders, nationalities, religions and creeds.


We could forever banish money from the halls of power and force the plutocrats to pay for all they have stolen from us – with interest.


We could do all this with the merest flexing of our muscles. Because the conquering power is so weak, so disorganized, so pathetic.


And the status quo false flag opposition is just as weak and powerless.


There is but one puissant force left in this country of ours, and it is us. The people.


We were there at the beginning and we are here still at what might be our end.


We, the People.


We can take this country back from the sick and stunted and powerful.


We can take this country back from the frail and the deranged and prejudiced.


We can make America great – if not again then perhaps for the first time. We can make America truly great.


That is the promise of the future.


As our darkest hour dawns, our brightest light may yet shine.


Here’s to igniting that spark.


Here’s to a brighter tomorrow.

Will the U.S. Follow New Zealand’s Lead and Repeal National Academic Standards?




Kiwis don’t like corporations telling them what to do.



Especially when it comes to educating their children.



That’s why this week, New Zealand’s Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced that schools in the pacific island nation would no longer need to use the national academic standards mandated by the government for the last decade.



“I don’t think anyone will be surprised that we are ditching a failed experiment,” he said.


“We want teachers focused on less testing and more teaching because that’s the way we’re going to improve students’ progress.”


I pause at this point for American readers to catch their breath.


Yes, a national government just reversed course on standardized, canned, one-size-fits-all academic standards for all students in its public schools.


Yes, they had spent millions of dollars to create, roll out and enforce the standards.


But now they see the results have been less than expected and they’re changing their collective minds.


Shocking, I know.


If only we still did things like that in THIS country.


But wait, there’s more.


Why exactly did New Zealand turn against its national standards?


Did parents hate them?




Did kids hate them?




Did teachers hate them?




All things that could be said of our own Common Core. But was there more to it?




In short, New Zealand’s national standards weren’t helping kids learn. In fact, they appeared to have the exact opposite effect.


New Zealand children’s performance on international tests dropped significantly since the standards were introduced in 2010.


And publication of these results showing 10-year-old’s reading achievement taking a nosedive since the standards adoption ignited an already smoldering public outcry.


New Zealand’s average score on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) had been steady for 15 years, but fell dramatically at the end of 2015. In short, New Zealand went from 23rd to 33rd out of 50 countries.




The US has had a strikingly similar result on the same test with the same age children since the mandate to use the Common Core.


The PIRLS is an assessment given to fourth-graders in schools around the world every five years. In 2016, the average score for US students dropped from fifth in the world in 2011 to 13th. And the drop wasn’t merely perfunctory. It was “statistically significant” according to test organizers.


The biggest drop was for the lowest-performing students, what the organizers considered a sign that we’re providing much greater support for economically advantaged children than for underprivileged ones.


Why is this important?


Because Common Core was introduced across the nation in 2010-11. These fourth grade students were the first to be educated using the Core since Kindergarten, and far from creating a boost in achievement, it opened a chasm.


Reading scores went down just as they consistently have done time-and-time-again since we started using the standards.


Scores go down on state tests. National tests. International tests.


Meanwhile the test makers and their proxies keep telling us the problem is that the standards are simply more rigorous and it just will take time for our children to get up to speed. Meanwhile their publishing and software subsidiaries sell us hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new text books, new computer programs, new devices, new apps, new “specialists” and consultants offering professional developments, etc.


Choo! Choo! The gravy train is rolling. We can’t let something like international test scores derail the money train!


Keep in mind, this is the same international test and the same age group of children that caused a revolution in New Zealand.


Will our response be the same?


Probably not.


New Zealand’s authentic reform resulted from a political change. The National Party was replaced by the Labour Party, and repealing national academic standards was part of their platform.


It marked a sharp divide between the philosophies of both groups.


The National Party wanted more testing, more data, more standardization, more holding funding hostage to test scores – just like both Republicans and Democrats in the US.


However, the New Zealand Labour Party ran on significant reductions to standardized education, substantial cuts to standardized testing, repealing national standards and considerable investment in students, schools and teachers.


We in the US simply have no political equivalent.


There is no political party – right, left or centrist – that puts the needs of children, parents, teachers and working people at the center of its platform.


Both the left and right take billions of dollars in campaign contributions from the testing and privatization industries and thus support policies that serve the interest of their donors over their constituents.


There is a tremendous political opportunity here for one party to change course and support a winning strategy.


Republicans tried it in 2016 by lambasting Common Core and then quietly forgetting they could do a thing about it at the state level every day since.


Including today.


Admittedly their education policy is incoherent since they support every standardization and privatization initiative on record so long as a black President didn’t touch it. And even then their opposition melts away when they have the power to do something about it but no one’s looking because the President is too busy playing nuclear chicken with North Korea on Twitter.


Imagine if politicians promised to fix something and then had the courage to actually do it!


It worked in New Zealand.


It’s worked in many places all over the world.


Why can’t it work here?


Killing Net Neutrality Would Muzzle Many Teacher-Activists 


As a blogger, I’m a big fan of net neutrality.

If the communications giants get to favor or block particular Websites, people-powered blogs like this one probably would become isolated and irrelevant.

As it stands, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to vote Dec. 14 to undo strict regulations on Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon that stops them from slowing down or blocking any sites, apps, or otherwise deciding which content gets to users faster.

If the Republican controlled five-member committee votes as expected, it would muzzle free speech.

It would effectively stifle hundreds, thousands of grassroots activists who’ve taken to the Web to educate and protest against the plutocracy strangling our democratic freedoms.

Think about it.

Close your eyes and imagine a United States where you couldn’t access your favorite Websites without paying a fee or – as in China – maybe even at all.

Want to know why standardized testing is harming our children and their schools? Sorry. That costs extra.

Want to know why Betsy Devos’ latest plan to give your tax dollars to Roy Moore’s Christian Fundamentalist Middle School and Dating Center endangers child welfare? Sorry. That information is no longer available.

Sure, you could probably look it up in the library and find it in a book, but that requires a complete change in how we consume media.

Most of us get our news on-line. We don’t read paper newspapers or glossy photo-print magazines. Books, when we read them, are often occasional pleasures or e-texts.

Searching out such material would take a paradigm shift back to the way we used to do things 10 or 20 years ago. It wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be onerous.

Remember traveling everywhere with a pile of books weighing down your bag, or a newspaper and magazines folded under your arm? People seeking such information would really need to want it.

Moreover, articles published in this way would almost surely become out of date quickly at least in regards to particulars. You can easily write something about the evils of charter and voucher schools in general that will be true for years if not decades, but it won’t as easily apply to individual charter and voucher schools by the time it’s published and been on the shelf for a while.

Additionally, writing and publishing such articles would become increasingly more difficult. Unless individuals or groups of activists bought up archaic printing presses or somehow funded mass media campaigns at Kinko’s and there were likewise an as yet undiscovered distribution engine that could disperse such periodicals across the country and the world – unless all of that, the resistance would be relegated to mostly scholarly tomes.

Take it from me: writing a book is not easy.

I just published my first volume of some of my best blog articles for Garn Press called “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform.”

I am embarrassingly proud of it, but this would not work for everyday activism.

Even though most of the articles were already written, it took a team of us months to revise them, insert end notes, edit, format, design a cover, market and all the other multidinous things that go into the process.

Whereas, with a blog, I can just write it and press “publish.”

The result isn’t as neat. It isn’t as error-proof. There’s bound to be spelling and grammar problems. It doesn’t pack nearly the authoritative punch. —But it’s so topical and subversive that it can slice through steel.

Campbell Brown can’t publish a billionaire-funded diatribe against those greedy teachers and their damn unions and their precious tenure without an army of teachers taking to the Web and showing her the error of her ways.

Bill Gates can’t send his well-paid trolls off to write op-eds praising Common Core without a grassroots tsunami of educators, parents and students responding with scores of counternarratives throughout the blogosphere.

And it’s net neutrality that allows us to do it.

The democratization of information made possible by the free Internet has greatly empowered the voices of the wise but penurious.

You no longer need a printing press or a think tank or a media empire to get information before the public.

Sure this means that even the lunatic fringe gets a voice in the conversation that is American culture, but it also allows ideas to win or lose based more on merit than money.

If enough people share an article on-line, it gets read. People see it. They know it.

False information is eventually found out, disproven and neutralized. But a factually-based critique of bad policy? That can move mountains. It can change the world.

And it has!

Think of how even neoliberal policymakers have rushed to claim they’re in favor of reducing standardized testing. Longtime standardization supporters like former President Barack Obama had to distance themselves from their own policies or face the torches and pitchforks of moms and dads everywhere.

Think of how Democratic and Republican partisans clamored over each other to denounce Common Core. Heck! The movement was so successful President Donald Trump even jumped on the bandwagon and used it as a rallying cry to help install himself in office.

And think of how the reaction to Trump’s dismal and dimwitted Education Secretary, Devos, caused a stampede away from school vouchers and even to some extent charter schools. Even longtime champions of privatization like Jeb Bush and Cory Booker are afraid to offer even a tentative thumbs up for fear of the Web’s blitzkrieg of Tweets, Facebook posts, blogs and other shade.

None of this would be possible without the Internet and the blogosphere.

None of this would be possible without net neutrality.

It’s no wonder Trump and his cronies want to destroy it. The open communication and debate on the Internet is a clear and present danger to his policies.

It is dangerous to the neoliberals and conservative fascists alike.

Though the movement fighting against corporate education reform has been rightly critical of unlimited technology for technology’s sake in our classrooms, that same confederation owes a great debt to technology for its current power.

We meet on Facebook and plan actions to be conducted IRL – In Real Life. Groups like the Badass Teachers Association, the Network for Public Education and United Opt Out use the technology to spread truth and question authority.

If the life line of net neutrality is severed, so will much of our activist networks.

I know we’re all concerned about competency based education, Teach for America and toxic testing, but we have to make room for net neutrality, too.

The 99% rely on it for the free exchange of ideas and the unhindered expression of our speech.

If the Trump administration crushes that venue, it will seriously weaken our ability to resist.

So before that day comes, exercise your rights.

Raise your voice for net neutrality – before it’s too late.


Please go to and urge the FCC to keep Net Neutrality.