Tuesday, September 1, 2015

WAYNE AU IS A REVOLUTIONARY EDUCATOR.

On August 10, 2015 Wayne Au came to Los Angeles to speak at the Antioch University, Los Angeles' Education Department "Friends of Education Speaker Series" -- his subject: The Opt Out Movement.   Antioch is a great place -- refreshingly and progressively run by Dr. J. Cynthia McDermott, Ed Chapel,  and other progressive faculty. Dr. McDermott has taught in other countries and here in the U.S.  "Along with democratic teaching practices she has an intense interest in Children's Literature and began the Horace Mann Upstanders Children's Literature Award" where I first met her.  2015 Upstanders went to Eve Bunting and Justin Roberts, and Michelle Franke Meyering, executive director of the PEN center USA in Los Angeles.  I hope that many students can find their way to this Education program since it is one of the few in the country that reflect what is needed in public education, and actually support public education! 












From Antioch's publicity:  "Wayne Au is an Associate Professor in the Education Program at the University of Washington, Bothell, and he is an editor the social justice magazine Rethinking Schools.    His research interests include critical analyses of high-stakes testing, critical educational theory and practice, curriculum studies, and multicultural education. Most recently he co-authored the article "Rethinking schools:  Enacting a vision for social justice within US education" for Critical Studies in Education and co-edited Pencils Down:  Rethinking High-Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Schools. 

Although this was the same night as the Los Angeles rally for Bernie Sanders, the audience consisted of a diverse group of students in the Education School at Antioch University and some professors. A few of us activist BATs (Badass Teachers Association), Larry Lawrence and myself, and friends of Wayne Au's also attended. Larry came all the way up from Carlsbad.  Wayne has lived in Orange County and Long Beach and now lives in Seattle, Washington.  Wayne talked about why he addresses the question of Opt Out and speaks often to groups of parents.  Outrage isn't too strong a word to describe what he shared with us while explaining the machinations of the high-stakes game.  "How vacuous they are with the use of data."
 Can I do this talk justice? I ask myself. Do I really understand what he is presenting? The Basics of Assessment:  Explicit Sampling -- that's what testing is."  We assume a correlation.  Infer from a sample. But there are hidden issues -- "hidden sampling" -- EL fluency, test logics, coping with stress, conditions of assessment:

Basics:  is it cold?  is a dog barking?  Critical point:  opposed to high stakes.  But any assessment is indirect. Causal relation we don't really know.  Limited. Imprecise.  Grades and test scores are inferences.


High Stakes Standardized Testing -- consequences attached to scores. Loss of job, grade retention, media scrutiny.  Standardized Tests are supposed to be uniform.  In order to enable comparison -- PISA and NAEP.  Sorting -- create hierarchies in our current system.

Assumption:  We tend to assume a strong correlation between teaching, learning, and the assessment (sample).

Theory of Action: consequently we tend to assume that we can infer the amount of learning and the quality of teaching and curriculum from the assessment (sample). So we attach consequences to the assessment, making it "high-stakes".  This causes basic problems:  narrows teaching - no recess, art, music.  Bad pedagogy.  Lecture more -- teacher centered.  Consequences - on low income, children of color corrupts validity. Culture of FEAR AND DISTRESS (emphasis mine).  Charters are gaming the system.  Exit exams - do nothing for students but increase jail time.  Tests:  CANNOT ACCOUNT FOR THE DIVERSITY OF LEARNERS.

TESTING'S TECHNICAL PROBLEMS:  cannot say that X causes Y.  Non-school factors correlate  with test scores.  70% are non-school factors.  20% are school related factors.  Not accurate, not precise.  35%  25%  VAM year-to-year instability -- teacher at top one year, on bottom the next.  Kid dependent.  80% of gain or loss due to random events.

Others:  Killing the profession of teaching.  Mega corporations need to make $$.  That's it.

Test scoring sweatshops -- Craigslist -- 60 seconds spent by a person with no knowledge of the student.

NEOLIBERALISM
David Harvey's definition in 2007 -- de-regulation, free trade, -- divest from public sector.  Neoliberal Corporate Education Reform:  Pearson does what the state did.  Break unions. Public money moves to private business.  Business model -- with COO and CEO at the head, etc.

Narrowing the purpose of education to economics - pay attention to people's needs but now it's purely an economic reason.

Non-democratic bodies -- School Boards often appointed.  Charter Boards -- private - Corporate Education Reform.



Fabricant & Fine - 2013.  Hunter College -- "offer a compelling analysis of the promise, politics, and problems of charter schools.  $500 - $700 billion -- the New Gold Rush -- takes money out of our neighborhoods.  [Bankrupt our public school systems (mine)]

Testing and Audit Culture -  auditing of everything.  Efficiency, standards, production.

Attack on the Commons -- market system.  Neo liberalism. Helicopter parenting -- this is happening pre-nataly -- competition.  Pearson needs data crunchers.

Gates -- powerful market forces.  We only create standards in order to test!




Provides the fuel -- it all depends on test data.







RACIAL PROJECTS


Omi and Winant - p. 125 - Standardized Testing as a Racial Project.  Historically -- Binet -- but a crude misappropriation of it.  Tested adults.  Goddard, Terman, Yerkes -- all tested students and Terman followed some for many years.  Results reflected the social order -- race and class.  Used to justify EUGENICS movement -- brought these tests to the schools.  Taylorism -- Ford Motor Company. [Added by me because California was the epicenter of the Eugenics movement:  Stanford president David Starr Jordan originated the notion of "race and blood" in his 1902 racial epistle "Blood of a Nation," in which the university scholar declared that human qualities and conditions such as talent and poverty were passed through the blood.]
 

Objectivity, Meritocracy, Equity -- masks structural inequality.  Public school system is guilty of using testing as a racial project.  Testing framed as a civil rights issue.  Bush, Paige, Duncan, Obama, Rice -- all say it's a civil rights issue of our time.

High-Stakes Testing as a Racial Project:

-- greatest curriculum squeeze:  wholly different education than the affluent; loss of multicultural curriculum;  culturally relevant instruction gone.
The Culture = Discipline, punishment, surveillance, threats.

NCLB -- 13 years -- NO CLOSING OF THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP. All under the guise of equality.   Same results from 100 years ago! What are tests really measuring?

Jody Melamed -- Neoliberal Multiculturalism  -- post racist world -- testing is key!!

David Gilborn talks about England -- the same thing is happening there.


MATH CUT SCORES - SBAC - From the Northwest Lab.  Huge failure rates.  This is a planned failure rate!!  67% OF KIDS FAIL!!!

English Language Arts - SBAC -- same failure rate!! NAEP model.

Wayne tells PARENTS -- Go with the flow!!  PARENTS ARE POWERFUL!! - push the conversation forward.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! - Administrators don't know -- tell them to show you the law! Ask about research.  THERE IS NONE!!

A Masters program at the University of Washington finds admissions people don't know what is happening.

-- Support School Staff -- build relationships.

We have to push our unions.  Progressive leadership!!

 - Outright refusal!








OPT OUT NUMBERS ARE NOT FIRM -- 200,000 in New York, 60,000 in Washington state, 10,000 in New Mexico, 50-60,000 in New Jersey, 8000 in Wisconsin, 2000 in Portland, Oregon.

Arundhati Roy - DEPRIVE OUR EMPIRE OF OXYGEN!!!  Test scores are oxygen!


THE POWER OF OPTING OUT - the deformers use the data to justify everything!
OPTING OUT DEPRIVES THE SYSTEM OF ITS OXYGEN.  They can't monetize and profitize public education without data.  A paradigm shift forces the system to pivot on its axis -- they cannot handle it.

What is the aim of education?  Without data you have to look at the purpose of education differently.

PEOPLE -- OPT OUT!!!    UNITED OPT OUT  http://unitedoptout.com

FAIR TEST -- http://www.fairtest.org  

Wayne Au  wayne.wk.au@gmail.com

   


                                       

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

CALIFORNIA TEACHERS SUMMIT 2015 "BETTER TOGETHER"

On July 31, 2015 Bill Gates funded a "California Teachers Summit" to convene teachers at various locations around California.  Real reason:  to promote Common Core.  To quote from Scott Folsom's great blog 4LAKids August 9, 2015 "Picking up the pieces of our broken heart" - he says "A week ago the grandly titled Better Together Teacher Summit (#CATeachersSummit) was held up-and-down the state grandiloquently+hyperbolically:  The States Largest Teacher Training Ever Attempted."  Supposedly 15,000 teachers attended at 33 venues plus "unenumerated multitudes via smartphone apps and livestream media".  It was all very high tech and interactive.  There was much gushing over what it was about and what it supposedly accomplished.  But no real truth.  At one point our moderator (who has definitely drunk the KOOL-AID) stated that we were #1 trending on Twitter WORLD WIDE.  (Forgive me Twitterers, I don't Tweet)   I knew it would be much of a farce but it surprised me how far they went.
  I attended the session at the Pasadena Convention Center, which was not quite full. We were told there were 2000 people in attendance. Who were the moderators and speakers?  First of all, the Dean of Education for Loyola Marymount University (where my daughter earned her Masters and teaching credential) Shane P. Martin, PhD was the main moderator.  I looked back in my memory trying to remember how much money the Gates Foundation gave each of these universities that were in attendance (except USC, for some reason, was absent despite the fact that it was given money).  An excellent source for information about this summit is Anthony Cody's blog Living in Dialogue: Common Core Teacher Day in California, Brought to you by the Gates Foundation.  Anthony says Gates funded this Summit to the tune of $3.5 million in grants for a 'single day' of CCSS exposure.  For example, Cal State Fullerton accepted $1.26 million.  The New Teacher Center (Santa Cruz) (which Scott Folsom says is run by none other than the JAIME AQUINO of John DEASY fame -- who had quit his LAUSD lucrative position - to avoid trouble perhaps?) accepted $1.2 million.  Several other schools were helping facilitate - Antioch University, and Chapman University but they were not given any prominence (and probably didn't get any money).  However, there was a long list of "corporations" listed as RESOURCES -- including ACHIEVE THE CORE, BETTER LESSON, CENTER FOR COLLABORATIVE CLASSROOM, NEW TEACHER CENTER,  TEACHING CHANNEL and more.  Listed among those was the CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION -- is it now, seriously, A CORPORATION?
  Dean or Dr. Shane Martin was enthusiastically introducing us to the fun-filled day where teachers would be appreciated and not blamed for every problem in the universe.  Others on the state came from Pepperdine University, Cal State University Fullerton perhaps, and USC in name only, New Teacher Center, Independent California Colleges and Universities.  We were handed bags with Summit logo, and thick cardboard program, and for us in Pasadena a Free charger with AICCU and "Better Together Teachers Summit" printed on it, courtesy perhaps of Bill Gates.  My friend Larry Lawrence, an excellent teacher who is also retired,  attended the session in San Diego and received many more gifts, including a flashlight.  I am thinking that our hosts in Pasadena didn't think we needed more gifts and kept more of the money for themselves?  Or perhaps they had to sink more money into technology since we had all the LIVE SPEAKERS in Pasadena - everyone else just had a screen.
I honestly do not remember hearing the words Common Core the entire day (except when we broke into groups for a brief tete a tete).  Perhaps I wasn't listening but I doubt it.  I do believe that the Dean Shane Martin truly values teachers and really thought he was being helpful to teachers putting on this show.  Let me give you an overview of the day.  We arrived at 8:00 a.m. to register and eat what amounted to a cheap breakfast of coffee, juice, fruit, and small pastries.  We sat and talked with other teachers.  Our parking was subsidized so truly the day didn't cost us anything.  At 9 a.m. we assembled in the gorgeous auditorium of the convention center. 
Dr. Martin kept repeating how extraordinary this was - "led by teachers for teachers" and "today is ground-breaking."  New models of professional learning -- and he mentions EdCamp.  Technology is connecting us throughout the state.  "Teachers matter" he says.  Networking and collaboration - we have a "statewide network of peers."  He really reminds me of a kid -- who is very enthusiastic about something but not really at all sure.  He shows us a Rah Rah film with Meryl Streep?
  Next is the CEO of New Teacher Center (so far no teacher has spoken).  "Teachers are rock stars" she says.  Keeps saying "college ready no matter the zip code".  She introduces YVETTE NICOLE BROWN - a movie star best known for Community, and now The Odd Couple. She is charming, well spoken, and easy on the ears. She tells how teachers made such a difference in her own life, very poor but her mother told her education was the key. Yvette is on the Advisory Board of Donors Choose and has helped Stephen Colbert fund projects in South Carolina. She wanted to be a teacher but she was signed by Motown at age 19. She is a very good speaker and comedienne, but I keep asking myself, WHY IS THIS A SUMMIT AND WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH TEACHING?
  Our next speaker is Thema Bryant-Davis, PhD, from Pepperdine.  Extraordinary woman, she sings us songs.  She has lived in Liberia because her father is a minister.   Both her parents are writers. She is very clear about the need for ARTS in our lives and their correlation to higher academic skills and life skills.  ARTS save our lives."  She teaches us sing language for a song - "We are one family and one can separate us."  And last, she sings Tracy Chapman's TALKIN' 'BOUT A REVOLUTION."  I cannot capture the flavor of her speech or her ability to convey her loves for the arts. She is a licensed psychologist, poet, dancer, motivational speaker, minister, and life empowerment coach.  Her Pepperdine description says "I am primarily committed to uncovering and attending to the role of culture in the trauma recovery process."   
  What may not be clear (and wasn't at first to me) is that our speakers were LIVE but the rest of California was seeing them on a screen.  What a shock that was!  I am watching a film right now at home - Nightcrawler - which is really the story of sleazy capitalism, the real thing.  And it reminds me of the speakers at the Summit.  Not the movie stars or the one teacher -- but the fake promoters, the ones who aren't telling us that this really is a big promotional push for what are now being called THE CALIFORNIA STANDARDS! [the Golden State].  
  Mike Vollmert was the EdCamp specialist who laid out what we were to do in our two hour session. He had some cute quotes:  Yogi Berra said: "The future ain't what it used to be." And Jackie Robinson:  - "Life is not a spectator sport."  Just ask questions, Mike says.  Or share.  EdCamp is about conversations.  "Rule of two feet"  - get up and go to another conversation if you don't like the one you are in."  GOOGLE this [EdCamp.org] and you'll find a presentation that tells you everything.  [My Question:  A school district actually PAYS this company good money to do what they are about to do with us?  I find it disgusting.]  
   From 10 a.m. to noon we sit with two facilitators and are given two sticky post-its -- one purple and one yellow.  The purple is for a question we have. The yellow is for something we want to share.  Our facilitators are young. Not sure they are really trained.  The female tells us she "loves DISRUPTIONS" -  like Arne Duncan loves HURRICANES!  We are told this is just a conversation.  They gather up the stickies and put them up on the wall in categories.
You can do EdCamps anywhere she says, with anyone.  Do these instead of your Adminstration's Professional Development at LAUSD (mentioned specifically).  Topics that emerge from these stickies:  1.  ELL/ELD, special needs Inc.   2.  ED Tech.   3.  Art and Music - STEAM.  4. Classroom Community Building, democratic process.  5.  Project and problem-based learning. 6. Classroom management. 7. Writing - Common Core (only time I heard it mentioned) [When the convener included PRE-K WRITING, I GROANED and said loudly how inappropriate that was.] 8. New Teacher Issues. 
  Teachers were to pick a group and meet.  I left at this point, to be honest. I have been retired for six years and have nothing to contribute to current teachers.   My friend who stayed spent her time talking with Technology teachers and made good contacts, she said. She convinced them to take interest in CUE - Computer Using Educators - which they had never heard about before.  My friend is a National 
Board Certified Teacher Librarian and helps teachers frame ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS so that their students have to do original research and can't plagiarize.  She felt the EdCamp sessions were helpful.  My friend Larry Lawrence, consummate teacher of math at Morningside High School in Inglewood and at the UCLA Lab school, who attended San Diego, also felt his sessions were useful. They actually had one entitled "Politics" - unlike our more mundane topics.
  I believe the majority of teachers attending the CA Teachers Summit was young, out of a job, trying to get a job, mostly new teachers as opposed to more seasoned ones.  The majority I also think was elementary - at least at the Pasadena site.  There were about the same number of middle school as high school teachers. And a smattering of special education and higher education teachers.  More men than usual.
  After a lovely lunch which cost them very little, we reconvened in the auditorium for more speakers. 
One was a Technology teacher from Santa Ana who billed herself as a Program Specialist Learning Innovation with Technology Teacher.  Teaching was her second career.  Had a catchy talk about the "5 Be's" - including Be Intentional, Be Encouraged, Be Curious, Be Better Together.  
  Andrew Stadel, Math and Digital Learning Coach [what's wrong with just BEING A TEACHER??]
is from Tustin Unified.  He presented something he seemed to think was novel -- teaching number sense using estimation.  He showed us how badly we all estimate. And shared his website which has many examples -  www.estimation.180.com.   
  We were asked to find someone we didn't know in the audience, and talk about one thing you learned here that was impressive.  Perhaps this was time for some technological adjustments?  Not sure.    Observation:  California teachers feel they don't use CC -- they already have standards of their own - or have adapted CC.  Quite an easy sell this has been -- because most want to keep their jobs, despite the negative pressures on teachers.
  A moderator comes back at 1:30 -- one hour to go.  We are TRENDING ON TWITTER --first World Wide -- we are told.  Who would like to share a thought?  A kinder teacher from South Los Angeles says she "loves EdCamp." A high school teacher -- maybe from Roosevelt HS -- one of the reconstituted schools, says -- "Take the kids back to preschool when they didn't care, weren't so restricted in their thinking, and do creative projects with them."  A teacher from a Charter asks -- "did we get positive press today?  Did we get the message out -- Teachers Save Lives?"  Moderator says YES.  Twitter going crazy.  and  "There will be press."  A teacher who doesn't give her name says "Yvette was a great speaker - story of favorite teachers lets people know there's still value in our jobs." 
  Next - a video of Kid President -- I'm too old to appreciate this but the audience likes it. 
Kristin Soares [not sure which corporation she is from] introduces LELAND MELVIN, football player and astronaut.  Impressive person.  Talks about Nichelle Nichols  [Martin Luther King, Jr. told her to stay on Star Trek - she was THE FIRST TO INTEGRATE TV].    Melvin is full of interesting stories.  He never gave up what he wanted to do even though discouraged many times.   
He shows us a video of himself on the shuttle trying to eat M&Ms.  But the photo above says it all -- THE RIGHT STUFF,  NEVER GIVE UP STUFF.   Do I detect a lecture on the famous GRIT?  that all the CCSS pushers are so fond of repeating?  Melvin is definitely full of it.
  This Summit reminds me of the time I happened upon the TFA RALLY that my daughter was attending after her five glorious weeks of training at USC.  Clearly I wasn't meant to be there -- because it had all the shrieking rituals of a SECRET SECT!!!  TFA would surely have preferred that all their rituals be kept secret.  Which makes me want to scream:  HOW ARE TEACHERS SUPPOSED TO TEACH CHILDREN TO THINK CRITICALLY WHEN THEY ARE ASKED TO STOP THINKING THEMSELVES?   
  And what has this Summit to do with collaboration, and teacher to teacher learning and teaching, and anything else that was promised for the day?  Nothing at all apparently. This was all in all A HUGE INSULT to the participants, and we were treated as little children.  Nothing of depth or interest was imparted, no strategies or theories of teaching and learning imparted.  All gimmicks and gung-ho exercises. Before Martin ends the day two women from New Teacher Center speak to us as though we are intimate friends. One of them mentions UNION - again, only time it was mentioned the entire day. "We are better together" and "Be a curious educator" and more trite sayings we've heard from others. 
  Dr. Dean Martin ends the day. Tells us to take the SURVEY that will be online.  We are also told to fill out a postcard to ourselves which will be mailed to us later sharing What did you learn?  How do you feel? and What are you going to do?  It will be a reminder.  A reminder of WHAT?
 Seriously, there was nothing of value learned today.  What a waste of $3.5 million.  How many libraries could have been stocked with new books or paid for a professional to run them, or arts programs for all?  I should have stayed home, except I wouldn't have been able to eat a "strawberry salad" or talk with my favorite colleagues (see above photo) who I don't get to see very often now that I am retired.
[FOOTNOTE:  the SURVEY the next day reveals exactly what this Summit was about: COMMON CORE
1. To what extent do you agree that the California Teachers Summit provided you with key learning you can take away and implement?    Strongly Agree - Agree - Disagree - Strongly Disagree.                                                     2. What is one key learning you are taking away from the California Teachers Summit?                                              3. The California Teachers Summit helped to build my enthusiasm for implementing the California Standards this school year.     Strongly Agree ----- Strongly Disagree.                                                                                             4. In what ways did today help build your enthusiasm for implementing the California Standards for this school year?                                                                                                                                                                                    5. To what extent were you able tons network with other teachers at the California Teachers Summit?       A Great Deal - Quite a bit - Some - Hardly Any - Not at all.                                                                                                   6. How will you stay engaged with them?                                                                                                                 7. How confident do you feel as you move forward to implement the California Standards based on what you learned today?    Very Confident - Confident - Somewhat Confident - Not Confident.                                              8. How confident do you feel about implementing the California Standards before today?    Very Confident ------ Not Confident.                                                                                                                                                            9. What is your greatest need moving forward to support you in the implementation of the California Standards?         10. How satisfied are you with the learning experience offered to participants at the Summit?      Very Satisfied ----- Not at all Satisfied.                                                                                                                                                11. What did you like best?                                                                                                                                          12. What two Summit resources have been the most helpful to you?                                                                    13. Please confirm your email address to receive your 2015 Better Together: California Teachers Summit Certificate.”                                                                                                                                                                             [Larry Lawrence says:   That's it! I will eagerly await my certificate which I will place on the wall next to my degrees from Occidental, Columbia and UCLA! If you want an actual copy as it appear on screen, let me know how I can get my Word file to you.]
NEXT BLOG:  WAYNE AU AND TROUBLING TESTING:  HIGH-STAKES ASSESSMENT, INEQUALITY, AND THE STRUGGLE AGAINST CORPORATE EDUCATION REFORM.  Rethinking Schools, Antioch, August 10, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Profoundly Powerful Movement is Possible if...

Wanted to share Chris Thinnes blog about the Network for Public Education conference held in Chicago this past weekend.  I was unable to attend but did hear some of the speeches streamed online, especially the final with Karen Jennings Lewis.
   I admit I am no fan of Diane Ravitch, Randy Weingarten or even the beautiful Lily Eskelsen Garcia who is trying to be progressive but just can't give up the need for 'standards' - that obviously fake structure that was started by publishing companies and President Bush the second (and before).  I wouldn't have gone to NPE for that reason - I would prefer if people had gone to various states to support grassroots organizing efforts.  You can hear some of the speeches and panels here at Schoolhouse Live.
   Karen Lewis however seems to understand the importance of organizing and democracy. While the strike in Chicago was not what she wanted, it was what her membership wanted. She sees this as a long term struggle, not just a battle against CCSS and high-stakes testing.  Even if those two go away we will be left with thousands of our students in private charters that are bleeding our public schools dry. Listening to her on Sunday one can see the difference between a leader who is there for the publicity versus one who understands the need for deep organizing. I hope some of our local leaders will listen to this - and see that they need to listen to their membership as well as being in the struggle for the long haul.
   Chris Thinnes blog ("If These Two Movements Found Common Cause") was helpful to me because he pointed out one of the best speakers in our struggle - Jesse Hagopian. I had heard Jesse Hagopian speak at a wonderful conference in San Diego -- the Association of Raza Educators.
 
Jesse is the first educator I have heard make the links to the need to change the system. Not that others don't believe this, but I haven't heard any of the national leaders make the connections until I heard him speak.  Jesse is not afraid to make the connections. In addition, of course, he has been in the forefront of the struggle for public education. So he is not just theoretically in tune, but practically on the ground a great organizer.  He also said he had been in Zanzibar last year, but I didn't get to ask him about it. Wish I had.  Zanzibar deserves another post.
This from Diane Ravitch about Jesse Hagopian's talk:   "Jesse Hagopian’s discussion of the racist roots of standardized testing. Jesse was accompanied by Seattle’s education director for the NAACP, which issued a protest against standardized testing."

I wrote this for Chris Thinnes' blog but didn't post it:    "Thank you Chris. Your piece is wonderful. I think back to the movements for social justice that began in the tens, 20s, 30s with socialists and yes, communists, that made equal rights and social justice the frontline of the struggle for working class rights. And because that was a powerful unity, the social justice activists were attacked, marginalized, and often made to starve (as in the case of my family and others like us).  And I believe this is the reason why we don't have the leadership we need in the unions.  But we will if what you are saying is implemented because it is critical to our winning the battle against deform and privatization. I fear that it is going to be a bloody battle.  But I thank you for clarifying the issues that will make or break us."

So if somehow we can get beyond our sophomoric pleas for goodness from the 1% and can galvanize people to fight in ever greater numbers for combined social justice issues, we just might win. Remember #BlackLivesMatter and #OptOutNow and #defendchildren are not separate issues. They will only be won when we unite.

P.S. Don't miss this great group of 20 new classic books for children. Included is The Dot by Peter Reynolds, my favorite artist for non-artists.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Love can change the world.

Written January 20, 2015 - after the celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
The more I think about the celebration of MLK’s birthday and his life, and how far back we have regressed, the sadder I become.  For some time now I think people thought we were making progress because the young people voted in an African American president, took to the streets for Occupy, and continue to fight for #BlackLivesMatter.  But in fact, we have gone backwards, and our polarization is at an all time high.
     Today Oxfam issued a report that 1% of people own more than 50% of resources and wealth.  Unless you are dead, you have felt the effects of this distortion and greed.  It’s what my husband calls a disorder - should be added to the DSM — as a particular disorder of the 1%.  Their need for greed and acquisition has no boundaries, and will continue to wreck havoc on the world.  We see it everywhere we look —  I must stop reading the newspaper where I see stories of homeless men and women being beaten and set fire to so they die.  There is such serious sociopathy in our society that sometimes the only response is flight.  Fighting seems hopeless.  The 1% own the police and the army and most of those who think they can become the 1% and so act in their service.  Running dogs of the rich are now more than the rabbits they hunt down.  Or at least it seems that way.
     My horoscope today:  “Of all the forces that can change the world, love is still the most powerful.  Do not doubt that your small, loving interactions person-to-person will make a difference.”    I have never believed any of that claptrap and only read the horoscopes to see how far off they are, or how distorted is my own sign, Pisces.  Love is not a clear cut thing — there are all kinds of love in my experience.  There is true self love, that has nothing to do with narcissism, there are those who truly love their children and again, devoid of narcissism.  There is the unconditional love of a dependent child (never experienced that with my own child) or the reverse, the unconditional love of a parent.  There is puppy love, early love, that seems more to do with hormones and pheromones than any depth of love.  And there is friendship that is love, that says, I would do anything for you.

     So where am I going with this?  Where do I want to go? To find some solution to the hatred that is dividing, and actually splintering our entire country.  
This New Yorker cover was interesting - came in the mail January 22.  Odd cover.  What do you think?  Can love change the world?  Can we reverse all this hatred?  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

What is more important to us: a broken window or a man/woman's life? My experience in 1969 at a protest against the International Industrialist Conference.

WHAT DO WE VALUE MOST? A BROKEN WINDOW, OR A MAN’S LIFE?   How African American children have to grow up too fast. How a 12 year old can be mistaken for a 20 year old.  How destruction of property is still more publicized than the killing of people, especially African Americans.

     It was 1969 and we were in the depths of the Vietnam War, tired of reading in our newspapers and watching on TV (if we had one —I didn’t at the time) how many Vietnamese we had killed each day, to say nothing of the U.S. soldiers being killed and destroyed psychologically.  I already knew then that a war not fought for honorable reasons is a war that will maim a person for life, for even the veterans of the Spanish Civil war, a just war, returned with shell shocked memories of the death they had caused or witnessed. Perhaps this blog post should be called:
WHY DO WE RIOT?  A riot is the language of the disenfranchised and marginalized and those who feel just plain hopeless? “A riot is the language of the unheard.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.
1969 was a year when the International Industrialists Conference was being held in San Francisco at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill.  The meeting was composed of the 700 richest corporations or their representatives mostly from the advanced industrialist  countries. They were to decide the fate of the entire world, and not anyone could stop whatever they decided should become law and/or policy.  I actually found an article devoted to this moment of protest that I am about to relay - click on the title above.   
       “The men who heard Wells Fargo's Ernie Arbuckle say that "the separation of private business and public affairs... is no longer tenable," who wined and dined in the Grand Ballroom of the Fairmont while the Tac Squad cleared away the rabble demonstrating outside, were by and large satisfied that if they were not in complete control of events they could and should be. When Rockefeller told them that the choice was "ours to make," the international capitalist clan -- all 700 of them -- believed him.”
       I was one of the rabble. We had started at Washington Square Park in North Beach. I had gathered there with many others to protest the idea that the capitalist class could make decisions that would determine the fate of everyone in the world without anyone else’s input.  A very courageous friend of mine in Progressive Labor Party who looked quite beautifully bourgeois was able to penetrate the meeting for a minute and get over a small message to the gathering.  Otherwise we were left to yell our anger outside. 
     Remember that the war was still going on, that there were still great gaps between haves and have nots all over the world, and especially in our own country (or so we thought).  That the fight for civil rights seemed unresolved because the basic economic lives of our brothers and sisters had not changed.  The War on Poverty had begun but was never successful. The War in Vietnam still raged and meant so many poor people in the United States and Vietnam were being killed at the behest of these capitalists.
     According to the above link:  “Blamed for inflation, the Vietnam war stalked the conference -- the cost of empire -- but it was not much talked about. Of greater interest to participants was the creation of an international managerial class, the problems of economic nationalism, the disaffection of the young, and the propagation of the socially conscious rhetoric of the new imperialism.”
    [Note: related possibly is the conference of the G8 but not directly.]
Here is a link to a book about the International Industrialists Conference by SDS  -  http://books.google.com/books/about/Stop.html?id=BRqaGwAACAAJ   A copy of this exists at the Univ. of California Davis — Shields Library.  

An article by Bill Anderson from the SF Bay Guardianhttp://www.sfbg.com/38/33/iic_1.pdf    and  http://www.sfbg.com/38/33/iic_2.pdf  gives more of a personal view and several conversations with some of the industrialists who clearly hated us.  “They get rich, poor folks die” we chanted.  “There is an enormous difference between the developed countries and the underdeveloped ones.” says Bill Anderson from an interview with a capitalist from Kodak.  [an aside: The piece in the Bay Guardian is more impressionist than factual.  Bill was a poet - see this blog about him:  http://woodyhaut.blogspot.com/2006/02/i-was-interested-that-in-his-blog.html  ]
     At this time I was working with a group of musicians who were all professional — only I was able to be a part because I knew the words to revolutionary and labor songs.  1969 was full of movement in the Bay Area - we went to Richmond Calif to support the striking Safeway Workers, who immediately invited us to a party once they got their strike check (only the poor are truly generous, I learned that night).  We were supporting strikes and playing concerts all over the bay area for different reasons. We didn’t last but we had fun.  Our name was BAY AREA PROGRESSIVE MUSICIANS ASSOCIATION - BAPMA and we included one of Country Joe and the Fish’s great musicians.
     I was depressed to learn that the Weatherman took credit for the failure of this demonstration — apparently the Weathermen were there to riot. And in the end it was people such as myself who got arrested, even though we were completely innocent.  I was arrested along with the wife of the head of the Venceremos faction of SDS [a professor at Stanford who was fired despite his TENURE - so even professors can be fired] — a third grouping within SDS.  She and I were just walking and ahead of us mostly young men were breaking big fancy stores’ windows.  We got blamed.  http://billayers.org/2008/05/20/wwjor-m-or-c-or-b-or-h-or-p-or-sd/   A comment on Ayers’ post by a Dougie Fresh:  scroll down to where Dougie fresh says:
"I love it how some right wing types attack Bernardine with blatantly sexist and racist slurs
Hey,I saw Bernardine speak at the Memorial Day Rally in Berkeley for People’s Park in May,1969.She had it going on.
Bill,we who knew you when have much love for you.I had my own issues with Weather but y’all “dared to struggle,dared to win”when many of us were scared to jeopardize our middle class comforts by taking the chances you did.
In Sept,1969.we did a “Days of Rage”at the International Industrialists Conference in San Francisco in which I took a bust and a beatdown.I always saw were we a precursor to the rumble in Chi-town the following month.
Keep on representing.The work of the Sixties is not yet over.”

         
Then there is the Tamiment Library & Archives — at NYU which includes National Guardian photos: http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/photos_213/dsc.html    One could probably find a photo or two of the demo.  I believe I still have newspaper clippings. Box 4, Folder 24 - labeled “International Industrialists Conference”.  Good to know this is available.
     James Laue papers contain a pamphlet — http://sca.gmu.edu/finding_aids/laue.html    
     Weatherman archives - ugh - https://archive.org/stream/Weatherman_552/weatherman_djvu.txt    Look at all that happened in 1969 - the IIC was just a blip in all the “days of rage” for which the “weatherpeople" take credit. I  would not be proud of this record of “rage”.  In June, SDS split — at the Chicago convention.  This was the year of the Chicago Conspiracy Trial for gosh sakes.  So no one noticed our demo in San Francisco. It was also my second arrest in less than a year and I faced 3 months in jail if it were noticed. Fortunately the computer presence in law enforcement had not yet made its mark.  In fact, the man taking my fingerprints was kind and told me I should consider becoming a parole agent. After all, I had a Bachelors’ Degree.
     I am writing this piece to make sense of the fact that not very much happened to us that day, unlike the response to “riots” in 1965 in Los Angeles, Newark, etc. or 1992 in Los Angeles.  We were charged with malicious mischief and time served as I recall.  Personally I did not condone destruction of property as a way to express my anger.  But I did sense that our outrage over what was occurring, and still is, in our country and the world could never be adequately expressed by any means.  I wonder further that we don’t just destroy ourselves and each other as we continue to blame “the other”.  


The Other America — “A riot is the language of the unheard”  ML King Jr.

Friday, June 6, 2014

How I Got Involved in the Anti-Predatory Reform Movement


In 2009 I lost my job as Coordinating Field Librarian for the southeast area of Los Angeles Unified School District – responsibility for 50 K-12 school libraries.  Rather than fight to get a position in a local school library (because many of my friends and colleagues were in danger of losing THEIR jobs), I decided to retire.  I had worked for over 40 years.  But I truly wasn’t ready to retire.

In order to support our school libraries (California is 51st in funding them, behind Guam) and bilingual education, I had been following the writing of Dr. Stephen Krashen and through him, the writings of Susan Ohanian.  The two became my guiding lights in understanding the mess that public education had become.  I began seeing posts on the Internet, on Facebook – and Robert Valiant’s DUMP DUNCAN Facebook page really caught my eye.  I knew that my district was infected with the Broad virus.  So I kept looking for more information that tied the Common Core and Charters, Vouchers and VAM together as the plan to take over our public schools and completely privatize them.  After all, it was Duncan who said the Katrina was the best thing that happened to the schools in New Orleans.

I bought the original Badass Teacher Association t-shirt from Mark Naison and wore it to a Los Angeles Unified School District Board Meeting where I criticized our Broad virus superintendent for lying to us and trying to fire teachers, hire TFA, and turn schools into technology factories. In fact, we do have schools that have employed what is called the “Blended learning” model where one teacher is responsible for 90 children.  Leonie Haimson and Class Size Matters is what we need in Los Angeles too.

My outrage grew and I kept reading Dr. Mark Naison in New York, Jo Lieb and Jesse Turner in Connecticut, Kipp Dawson and Yinzercation in Pennsylvania, Sandy Stenoff and Rosemarie Jensen in Florida. Phyllis Bush in Indiana, and so many more people, especially the bloggers:  Paul Thomas, Seattle Education’s Dora Taylor, Patrick Walsh, Kris Nielsen, Ken Priviti, Johnathan Chase, Fred Klonsky, and his brother too, Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch, Renee DInnerstein, Leonie Haimson, and Mercedes Schneider with her solo driving trips to New York, her writing a book in a summer, and more. A blog that grabbed my heart was Peggy Robertson’s – I knew that we needed to take direct action. And Opt Out seemed the logical step to be taken.  I was thinking about my five year-old granddaughter who was suffering in a kindergarten that did nothing but pencil and paper work – no blocks, no paint, no clay, no dress-up, etc. etc.

I know I am leaving out a lot of people who have kept me going these past five years.  I find it exhausting at times.  I will be in Washington DC in July, and would love to be in Seattle in June.   If I could, I would go everywhere that we are needed, although, in fact, Los Angeles, is probably in the deepest doo-doo, because we have more charters than anywhere else in the country combined, and we have a Broad virus as our Superintendent – a man who purchased his PhD with the funds of another school district (Santa Monica).  We have just elected a wonderful UTLA President. But there is so much to be done.