My Experience as a Student with the Center on Reinventing Public Education

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Last week, I opened my Facebook page to an article which explained how the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), an anti-public education think tank nestled within UW Bothell, is making waves nationally.

I wasn’t surprised.

As a UW Bothell student in the Masters of Policy Studies program, who signed up for the only “Education Policy” elective offered in my program, I learned first-hand how CRPE views public education, and witnessed first-hand how they conduct their own classroom.

Robin Lake and Betheny Gross, the co-instructors of the CRPE course, presented the argument that business models were more equitable and efficient than traditional public schools, and that the only way to reform education was to dismantle it and replace it with charters that will constantly open and close according to their “results”. The goal was never “better schools overall”. The goal was the ability to close “bad” schools.

These instructors argued the education system is supposed to have mixed results, to compare outcomes (test scores), and shut down “ineffective” schools; they argue that it is good to create a continuous, responsive cycle for “improvement”. They argue that public institutions are too bureaucratic, too slow to change and adapt to the 21st century. Their goal is to privatize public education.

Robin and Bethany, the instructors of the CRPE course, blamed teachers, parents and students in the process of demonizing public education. They didn’t mention the factors of poverty or low school funding, nor did they mention budget cuts or how since Federal education policies from No Child Left Behind, and every version since then, drain resources from public education. According to Robin and Bethany, “money doesn’t make a difference and we need to stop throwing it at education”. When have we ever done this?

That quarter, we read from business models how shutting down and “starting from a clean slate” was the best way to turn around failing businesses. We did not read a single piece of educational literature that did not come directly out of CRPE. I was shocked.

I raised concerns over issues of equity and standardization. They dismissed my concerns as being unsupported, non- issues or able to be solved by Charter Reform. At the end of the quarter we were asked to present one of our final two projects. Most of my colleagues chose to regurgitate the arguments made in class readings (some to save their grade, others because it was the first Ed policy class they took and the only information they had to draw from). I took a moderate stance on a paper that briefly included issues within high stakes exams and the need for multiple measures of intelligence.

I would have been open to any form of critical feedback, both positive and negative. The only response I received; however, was “Nice try but it will never work on a national scale”. Then, I saw a week later how my grade was negatively impacted by my substantiated and researched views. I received the lowest possible grade accepted by my program. No feedback on my work except for “Nice try…”. I was stunned. I did the work. Education Policy was my specialization.

I bring up this anecdote because it highlights a significant learning opportunity in my graduate education. I care much less about grades, than I do feedback. And that was the problem.

I realized the way these instructors defined democratic participation (both in educational reforms and the way they conducted their classroom), was by offering choices created by “experts”; rather than increasing the participation of stakeholders. Their evaluation methods also reflected the disproportionate value they placed on “absorbed information”, not ability to think critically, find information, interpret information and disseminate it to my colleagues within the framework of the course. They didn’t engage with competing perspectives and grade a body of work. They rated students according to their worldview.

I question why a research based program, UW Bothell, is allowing lecturers from a think tank intent on dismantling public education, to teach future educators and policy makers.

There was limited oversight or accountability for how they chose to deliver information. They had full control over grading practices, were not hired on as professors, assistant professors or lectures. They were given a title of “instructor” and allowed to teach without observation of a faculty member. We were given office hours for the Director of the MAPS program and a survey at the end of the quarter. There was no other oversight to prevent them from retaliating against students. I’ve taken classes by people in the pro- charter camp before. But they conducted themselves as professionals capable of entertaining competing perspectives, provided critical feedback and graded based on quality of work and participation.

All of the students from that class are working in our education now. We are making decisions that impact the lives of students and families across the state and nation. Some of us had exposure to enough competing perspectives to challenge the idea that public dollars should be taken away from schools and given to a private marketplace. Some didn’t. So as I read about how they are shaping the educational landscape nationally, I really understand how their views as course instructors have shaped the perspectives, and educational outcomes of professionals working in our own backyard.

Taking the course taught by CRPE’s researchers was one of the most eye opening learning opportunities I have ever had. Comparing their research methods, ideologies and classroom culture to the courses I took to earn my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I was struck by their narrow views and how they wouldn’t entertain any views outside of their own.

I don’t doubt that these two upper middle class white women care a great deal about children like theirs. I do doubt CRPE’s ability to question their unwavering faith in Neo-Liberal Market reform. 

How material is taught is just as important as the curriculum itself. Does the instructor value debate as a tool of learning? Or is repetition of subject material the leading indicator of learning?

I recall watching “Waiting for Superman” in previous classes. This video is a popular marketing tool for Charter Reformers. One of the central arguments of the video, is that students are currently taught as passive recipients of knowledge. Where the teacher is the ultimate authority and attempts to “dump” knowledge; rather that teaching students to engage with material.

If the fundamental argument of Charter reformers is that you can break up the “bureaucracy” and “monopoly” of public ed so that teachers are able to engage with students; why are their reformers teaching in the very authoritarian style they critique?

-Heidi Schauble

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Presentation for Advocacy 101: My Personal Journey

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On March 5th, my friend Shawna Murphy, co-hosted a roundtable discussion on advocacy. I was invited to participate on the panel. These are my opening remarks. 

My name is Carolyn Leith and I write for the Seattle Education blog. However, I think the real reason why I’m sitting at this table is because I’m a gifted trouble maker. 

I want to share with you what I believe are the three ingredients to advocacy.

First, by being here, you’re demonstrated the first ingredient: A willingness to act on your passion to make a difference.

I started out sitting in the same place you are now. I wanted to do something, but couldn’t see how I could fit into the organizations that were doing the work.

One day, it hit me.

I didn’t need to join a group to work on the things I cared about. I could do it myself, with friends who were worried about the same things.

That’s when I started to write for the blog.

Writing led to making a connection with other people who were concerned about the brand new Smarter Balanced Assessment. Together we formed the Seattle Opt Out Facebook Group.

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Through Seattle Opt Out, I met Shawna Murphy and we decided to create the tongue-in-cheek group, Teacher Retention Advocate Parents or TRAP.

Together we threw a half-baked bake sale at district headquarters to protest school level staff cuts and draw attention to the absurdity of trying to fund basic education with bake sales.

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After that, we asked parents in the district the Thirteen Thousand Dollar Question when Seattle Public Schools Superintendent, Dr Larry Nyland, said his scheduled $13,000 dollar raise couldn’t solve any of the district’s problems.

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We also held the McCleary Crime Scene Coloring Contest to bring attention to the state’s criminal underfunding of our public school system.

So back to the ingredients of activism. We have the first ingredient: action combined with the second ingredient: fearless friends.

The third ingredient, which I think is essential, is framing your advocacy in a way that’s both funny and leaves a mark.

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Humor is the twist that disarms your audience and allows the more serious information the opportunity to seep in.

But how do you do this?

This question led to my latest advocacy project: The Typist Union.

Why a union?  Because I always wanted to be in a union and I thought it would be funny if I started my own.

Once a month we meet and do art together based on an artist or group which blended politics and art.

We’ve made union cards based on the Wobblies. Masks inspired by Bread and Puppets and protest posters inspired by Act Up’s design arm Grand Fury.

In closing, I’m not waiting for any leader to save me or the public school system that I love. I’m doing it myself. I hope you do the same.

-Carolyn Leith, card carrying member of the Typist Union

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Look What You’ve Done – An Open Letter to My Mother

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When you announced your plans, at your 70th birthday last summer, to vote for him, I patiently explained why a vote for Trump was a direct vote against the safety and well being of your only two grandchildren. You didn’t listen. You spouted rhetoric about how much you hated Hillary and didn’t trust the government. As we drove away from your house that day I knew in my heart that it would be the last time I would bring my children there. Something in the way your husband blurted out, during lunch, about his gun not being secured while Beezus was alone in your house made me realize that this was no place for my most beloved humans, my children, your only grandchildren.

Over the next few months I tried to appeal to your rational side. I don’t believe you are racist and I know you’re not homophobic. I’ve also always known you to be a feminist, maybe you’ve changed and I just didn’t notice. Maybe I assumed you were still the mother I had in 1969, 1974, 1980. I kept sending articles your way and sharing the writings of your very astute LGBTQ 12 year old granddaughter. You did not budge.

And then the morning after, when the rest of the nation was mourning our loss, when my 6 year old was too sad to go to school-trying to grasp why grown ups would elect a bully for their president, you went on Facebook to gloat in his victory. You told us that he would fix everything that was wrong with our country. When I reminded you that you had chosen to vote against your own granddaughters’ well being, you chose to ignore me.

And now it has begun. First he and his cronies, white men who have never known a day without extreme privilege, have made plans to dismantle my children’s health care coverage. We are income eligible for Apple Health and since enrolling after the ACA was enacted my children have received free medical and dental coverage. In the past, when my daughters, your granddaughters, were uninsured we didn’t take them to the doctor except in the most extreme of circumstances. It has been such a relief to know that they have finally been receiving the medical and dental care that all people deserve. Beezus is worried about how we will be able to afford to continue with their now regular dental visits. I’m worried too.

I’d like to take a brief aside to mention why it is that my children are eligible for free health care coverage through the state. Am I unemployed? No. I work full time, more than full time usually, about 50-55 hours a week. I am also a college graduate, Dean’s list UW 1996. But I happen to do “women’s work”. I am a child care provider, one of the most feminist and necessary occupations in our country. I am here every day making sure that six other American families can go to work. I make about $11 per hour.

But I digress, back to health care. We should be ok, we’ve gone without healthcare before, but I worry a lot about my friends’ children with asthma and life threatening allergies, and of course all of our friends with Type 1 Diabetes. What about you and your other friends with MS? You use Medicare, didn’t you think to worry about all of your friends with pre existing conditions and how a lifetime spending cap would affect them? My elderly neighbor feels lucky he had his heart attack early in November. His 11 day ICU visit to Harborview came in at just over $200,000-his portion will be about $1,500. But what will it be for my neighbors who have their heart attacks after Paul Ryan has his way with Medicare?

But maybe you’re like your president and think my neighbors don’t matter? After all many of them are black and brown and certainly some of them don’t pray to your Christian God. My next door neighbors are Muslim, recent immigrants from Iraq. The next house down, Muslim also, from Somalia. In fact of the twenty children who live on my block, only 2 of them are white, your granddaughters. Maybe you were counting on their whiteness to save them from this new administration and it’s devastating policies?

But it won’t. Because you made me a liar. And this is what pains me most of all. When your granddaughter came out at age 9, I told her this was the best time, best city and best family to grow up gay. Your granddaughter already knows Mike Pence thinks she should be electrocuted. And now Donald is sponsoring the anti LGBTQ “First Amendment Defense Act” that would legalize discrimination against your granddaughter in all aspects of her life.

Your vote made my daughter unsafe. Your vote made my friends’ trans kids unsafe. Your vote made my friends’ gay sons unsafe. You know who made me an ally though? You did. You worked at the phone company in the seventies when it was one of the only safe work places for the LGBTQ community. They were relegated to working as phone operators on the night shift with all of the others who were seen as weirdos and freaks. And you being a night owl, and something of a freak yourself, loved that shift and loved going out dancing at Shelly’s Leg after work with all your wonderful Gay and Lesbian friends. You were the one who taught me about the struggles of trans people when our friend Kelly, who had once been our big beautiful black friend Eric, was going through his transition and surgeries. You were the one who introduced me to Gay marriage when I was 4, in 1974, when we went to your friends’ house and they showed me the photo album of their recent nuptials and I mistakenly asked, “but where’s the bride mommy?” I’ll never forget how those two lovely men took my hand and explained to me that THEY had gotten married. I have carried that moment and their pure joy, with me always.

And what about your granddaughters’ education? That’s something that has always been important to you. They’re both Special Education students, you know that, so maybe you know that your president’s pick for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, didn’t know about the federal protections my children are afforded through IDEA. She would prefer I be given some vouchers so that my children might attend a parochial school or one of the full day online, screen time schools. Betsy DeVos doesn’t care about my children and their right to an amply funded high quality education at a public school by highly trained union teachers. But I know you did. You and my father made sure that I attended the finest public schools in our city. In fact, you were so discouraged with the lack of racial diversity at my neighborhood school that you enrolled me as a “voluntary racial transfer student” in 1978. I rode the bus all the way from Lake City to John Muir Elementary because you believed it was important for children to grow and learn in diverse schools.

I believe that too. That’s why my children go to a very diverse public school. A science school, by the way. Up until recently science didn’t seem very revolutionary but it is now that our Forrest Service is on the forefront of the resistance movement simply by speaking their truth and the daily evidence they see of climate change. Our science school is breeding its own resistance movement. Twice already the middle school students have held classroom walk outs in opposition to your president and his position on our Civil Rights. Both of your granddaughters were out on the sidewalk in front of school chanting, “This is a Safe Place!”

And they are right. Our city, Seattle and our friends in nearby Burien, have declared our cities, Sanctuary Cities. Your president has said that he will withhold funding to penalize us for this but our city’s Mayor Ed Murray held a press conference yesterday in direct defiance of that threat. We shall not be moved.

And then there is the earth. But if you couldn’t bring yourself to vote for the safety of the children, and your own friends, I’m guessing you don’t care about the earth either. Your granddaughters do though. They wept when I showed them the photos of the brave people who have camped out all winter to protect all of us, and our Mother, from the pipeline. Water is life.

But your president is only concerned about protecting the life of the unborn. Smugly signing away funding for Women’s access to reproductive health care services by global organizations, simply because some of those providers might also provide, or just mention abortion services? That photo of he, and the other white men in their suits signing away women’s health care was so vile, so unsettling-their hatred for women so palpable.

I still feel powerful though. I can thank you for that too I suppose. You didn’t know how to drive so we walked and bussed all over this city when I was a little girl. Often just the two of us, after dark. You were never afraid. If anyone tried to bother us you always said, “Move along now, move along,” quietly but firm. I took that quality from you and I’ve passed it to my girls. But I am loud. Our girls are so powerful, too, marching through the streets with 150,000 of our friends who believe that your president is wrong. We had signs from their Uncle Derek and the girls had pussy hats from my old friend Sara in Jersey and DIY buttons. They looked like mighty Power Puff versions of young revolutionaries as they chanted and marched for miles and miles.

I believe that me and my people will make it through this time, but I also believe that you and the people you have chosen to lead us are going to do a lot of damage that will not be easily repaired. Irreparable. What you’ve done is irreparable. I will work to clean the mess. I will march and post. I will display signs of commitment, Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights Matter, Muslim Rights Matter, Immigrants Rights Matter, LGBTQ Rights Matter, Worker’s Rights Matter. And most important, I will do my job as a Citizen and a Mother to raise 2 voters who always think of the greater good of ALL people and our earth, first. When that time comes, we will truly be able to say it was WE not he, who made America great again.

-Shawna Murphy
Editor’s note: To learn more about Shawna’s work, please read Fighting for Fairness: A Family Portrait in Activism from Seattle’s Child. 

Why We Need Independent Media

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Posted with permission from TurningPointNews.org.

About the author:
Elizabeth Hanson M. Ed. Is a college instructor from Seattle Washington and co-founder of turningpointnews.org. She is also a co-author of the book, “Weapons of Mass Deception, The War against our public schools.” https://weaponsofmassdeception.org/

Elizabeth can be reached at ehansonwa@gmail.com

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In this article I compare the headlines of mainstream news to the headlines of independent news as an example of why we need independent news. I also give suggestions on how to ascertain the truth when reading news articles on the Internet.

In November of 2016, the Washington Post published a blacklist of 200 websites which they deem as promoting Russian propaganda and thus dangerous to U.S. consumers of news. It was published by a group called “Prop or Not”.

Here’s the link to the Prop or Not list –http://www.propornot.com/p/home.html

The Washington Post has many excellent reporters and has published some great stories over the years, so when I first heard about this list, I thought “Oh… it probably lists some sites like Russia Today (RT), sites directly related to Russia.

However, much to my surprise upon reading their list of propaganda websites, I found that the Prop or Not list contains the ten websites I have read almost daily for many years. Here in alphabetical order:

#1: Black Agenda Report

#2: Consortium news

#3: Counterpunch

#4: Global Research

#5: Naked Capitalism

#6: Oped news

#7: Truthdig

#8: Truthout

#9 Washingtonsblog

#10: Zerohedge

The Washington Post’s Prop or Not team also provides us with this graphic to scare the living bejesus out of people, in hopes, I assume, to deter Americans from visiting any of the sites they deem as propaganda and to show us that they mean business:

The team at Prop or Not then goes on to tell us that we should be reading news from these main stream media news sources instead of independent news sources. Here is a quote from their website:

Obtain news from actual reporters, who report to an editor and are professionally accountable for mistakes. We suggest NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington PostBuzzfeed NewsVICE, etc, and especially your local papers and local TV news channels. Support them by subscribing, if you can!”

Comparing Headlines of Prop or Not Approved Sites versus Independent News Sites
Here’s a look of some of their recent headlines of Prop or Not’s trusted media sources regarding Russian hacking and the subsequent sanctions Obama is putting on Russia.

NPR: “US. Officials Say Russia Hacked A Vermont Utility”

New York Times: “U.S. Sanctions Russia Over Election Hacking”

Wall Street Journal: “Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking”

Washington Post: Obama administration announces measures to punish Russia for 2016 election interference

These mainstream news headlines are being widely read by Americans and will likely have the effect of pushing most Americans into agreeing with sanctions and perhaps further aggressions against Russia.

We saw how believing in weapons of mass deception led to aggressions against Iraq and resulted in well over 100,000 civilian deaths between 2003 and 2010.

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http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-11107739

And there were no weapons of mass destruction found. Ever since 9 / 11, millions of Americans have become disillusioned with the mainstream news, and its framing of news related to subjects like trade agreements, foreign policy, banker misdeeds, the economy and education have been reading news from independent media.

Let’s compare those “ra-ra sanctions against Russia” headlines to the headlines in some of the independent media Americans read which are on the Prop or Not list:

Black Agenda Report –Freedom Rider: Syria, Russia and American Desperation

Consortium news – “Details Still Lacking on Russian ‘Hack

Counterpunch – “We Do Not Live in “Post Truth” World, We Live in a World of Lies and We Always Have

Global Research-Obama’s Sanctions against Moscow “Intended to Box In Donald Trump”. Evidence that Hacking of DNC Accusations are Fake

Opednews – “DHS FBI Claim of Russian Hacking is Fake News

Truthdig – “Experts Aren’t Convinced by FBI and Homeland Security Report on Alleged Russian Hacking

Washingtonsblog“Creator of NSA’s Global Surveillance System Calls B.S. On Russian Hacking Report”

Zerohedge “Something Stinks” – Like Iraq WMD Fiasco, Russia Story Doesn’t Add Up

While the mainstream media reported the Russian Hacker story as if it were the truth, alternative news sources reported why the Russian Hacker story might not be true.

Six Principles for Evaluation the Truth

I’m a teacher with a background in Linguistics. An always interesting question to answer with my students is how do you know if a media source is telling the truth?

I follow these six principles:

#1: Have they told the truth in the past? (Weapons of mass destruction, Economic recovery)

#2: Who is funding the site? (Gates money, CIA money)

#3: Is there power or money to be gained by the corporate rich by publishing this story? (Overthrow of Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Iraq, private charter schools)

#4: Are they willing to tell the truth even if the truth isn’t popular? (Federal Reserve continuously bailing out failing banks, the labor participation rate, GMO crops and farmers)

#5: Do they provide the underlying links to source documents? Are the links they provide real source documents or are they linked to fake source documents? (The Russian hacking evidence)

#6: Does the information seek to damage our civil liberties or to game the economy against us? (TPP, repealing Glass-Steagal)

Also, I recognize my own bias and don’t automatically discount others’ views. For example, I still read news from the sites that Prop or Not wants me to read even though I dislike Prop or Not. I’m not saying that all Mainstream news is fake. Just some of it.

Why is this subject so important?
Our rights to free speech hanging by a thread. In addition to Prop or Not’s black listing 200 websites, the federal government has just granted $160 million to create, as part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, a center to combat propaganda aimed against the U.S. (You’d wonder why anyone in the middle east might hold some anger against the U.S.) Here is part of a recent article from Alternet:

Obama Just Signed off on a Shadowy New ‘Anti-Propaganda’ Center That Will Be Handed Over to Trump

Without meaningful debate, the provision was included in the 2017 defense bill.

By Sarah Lazare / AlterNet

December 30, 2016

“….Termed the Global Engagement Center, the body is granted broad and ill-defined powers to surveil the “populations most susceptible to propaganda,” compile reporting and social media messaging critical of the U.S. government and disseminate pro-American propaganda… (Also) The language indicates that federal authorities will have a new mechanism for monitoring social media and reporting that is critical of the U.S. government.

See http://www.alternet.org/human-rights/obama-just-signed-shadowy-new-anti-propaganda-center-will-be-handed-over-trump

The legislation to create this Global Engagement Center had been in the works since June of this year, well before the election. We can only wonder what else has been and is in the works to be launched against both the American people and people worldwide. I’ll tell you one thing that has been in the works – tensions against Russia.

Another Example of the Need for Independent Media
Today at the gym I was watching the TV while on the treadmill and all of the mainstream channels were talking about the Russians hacking into…. Then when I came home I read an article by Glenn Greenwald, a very trusted journalist who I’ve read for years and who I’ve never seen lie.
https://theintercept.com/2016/12/31/russia-hysteria-infects-washpost-again-false-story-about-hacking-u-s-electric-grid/

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In this article, Greenwald reviews the false claims made by the Washington Post and then says,

“The Post’s story also predictably and very rapidly infected other large media outlets. Reuters thus told its readers around the world: “A malware code associated with Russian hackers has reportedly been detected within the system of a Vermont electric utility.”

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM here? It did not happen. There was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid.” The truth was undramatic and banal. Burlington Electric, after receiving a Homeland Security notice sent to all U.S. utility companies about the malware code found in the DNC system, searched all its computers and found the code in a single laptop that was not connected to the electric grid.”

This is why we need Independent Media

Just like with Iraq, the fabled Weapons of Mass Destruction against the US Electric grid was all made up by our recklessly dishonest main stream media. Glenn’s article is proof yet again, that we need to embrace independent news. Great danger lies in believing information because it’s shiny. In closing, many of us have been seeing this crackdown on free speech and free thought for years and over the last few weeks it’s been amplified. If we allow a controlled media, and police each other for signs of transgression in thought and word, we ourselves will be building up a society which I don’t think any of us really wants.

-Elizabeth Hanson

The Ugly Facts About Ed-Reform, Partisan Bickering and the Resistance

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I find it disturbing how quickly basic facts are flushed down the memory hole.

Yes, Betsy Devos is the extreme example of the type of privatizer destroying public education, but the Democrats – with Obama at the helm – opened the door.

Don’t believe me?

Take a look at Obama’s Digital Promise Initiative, whose purpose was to break open the education market for companies to sell personalized learning products to school districts. Why employ actual teachers, when computers and software can do the job.

How about the ESSA’s inclusion of “innovative assessments” – which edutech predators like iNACOL can’t wait to leverage into more online learning software and continuous testing in the classroom.

The ESSA also gave the charter lobby everything they wanted, and then some.

How can financially stressed public schools, always under the threat of being labeled “failures” based on test scores, compete with flush and unaccountable charter schools? Answer: They can’t.

I believe facts still matter and will fight alongside anyone who wants to protect our public schools, but I refuse to be a cog in anyone’s machine.

I won’t be participating in the partisan blame game, where public education plays the pawn. I’m over the constant maneuvering to score political points – while our schools burn to the ground, but neither of this country’s two cynical political parties seem to smell the smoke.

I’m also convinced it’s impossible to fight and win using the same structure that makes neoliberalism so destructive.

So don’t ask me to become a faceless member of your public education defending non-profit. Paying dues and then walking away isn’t enough for me now.

I’m also sick of powerful, god-like leaders sitting atop hierarchies which rob members of their voice, conscience, and agency.

How can we claim to care about democracy when we refuse to practice it?

If we are truly fighting against the commodification of public education, why would it be acceptable to treat members of our own groups as objects – either as an unintelligent mass that needs to be lead to the truth by an “enlightened” leadership or – at the most cynical – a captive audience to be manipulated for personal gain and advancement by the vanguard of a revolutionary dictatorship.

How can we claim to care about the unique gifts of every child and at the same time be afraid of our own individuality and power?

Barbara Deming – deep thinker, feminist, and champion of nonviolent social change – had this to say about the power of individuals:

If greater gains have not been won by nonviolent action it is because most of those trying it have, quite as Oglesby charges, expected too much from “the powerful”; and so, I would add, they have stopped short of really exercising their peculiar powers – those powers one discovers when one refuses any longer simply to do another’s will. They have stopped far too short not only of widespread nonviolent disruption but of that form of noncooperation which is assertive, constructive – that confronts those who are “running everything” with independent activity, particularly independent economic activity. There is leverage for change here that has scarcely begun to be applied.

If the solution was easy; we’d already have done it.

These are trying times. What used to work has failed us.

We’re scared. The question is what to do with this fear? I see two choices:

We can allow this fear to push us into a panic-stricken frenzy; forever reacting to the latest crisis, allowing those we oppose to set the agenda.

Fear also has a way of justifying tactics which compromise our integrity and over time robs us of our humanity.

Or

We can pause, go deep, and really consider Barbara Deming’s challenge to come up with a new “form of noncooperation which is assertive, constructive – that confronts those who are ‘running everything’ with independent activity…”

In it for the long haul.

Fighting back against ed-reform is going to take a lifetime. Undoing the damage and creating schools which foster face-t0-face democracy, will take even longer.

This is good news. We have the time to get it right.

Since the United States was built on the double fault line of genocide and racism, this is an opportunity to begin to right those wrongs; build on the lesson that ignoring past oppression guarantees more oppression in the future.

Flattening hierarchy, promoting individual agency, and increasing the public good means no one or any group gets tossed aside in the name of expediency.

There’s time to do our homework, to dig down and learn what has worked in the past and the powerful insights mixing in with the failures.

This is an opening to deeply learn our history. Get to know the labor radicals, socialists, populists, anarchists, and all the other colorful rebels of the past.

It’s also an opportunity to face and understand the ugly facts buried in the past: Manifest Destiny and genocide, lynching, eugenics, and the human/environmental carnage brought about by the industrial revolution and perpetuated by modern capitalism.

The architects of ed-reform have given us one clue to their system’s weakness: They love the idea of highly processed children, who will grow up to be widget-like adults.

Why?

Because beaten-down children, all taught from the same script, have the potential to create the most compliant worker class the world has even seen; afraid of authority, accepting of the master’s world view, and willing settle for anything.

Bootlicking is the career our business pleasing politicians are really getting our children ready for.

If there’s going to be any hope for a sane and equitable future, we desperately need to encourage and develop the independent, divergent thinkers among us. These are the individuals who will be the first to shake things up.

Want to be a rebel? Start buying books and reading. If you want to be a revolutionary, organize a reading group.

Crisis of courage. 

Unfortunately, teaching, as a profession, is on a different timeline.

I believe due to the recent alignment of technology and federal law, the United States is now on an accelerated track to diminish and ultimately eliminate the role of teacher as a professional career.

Instead, the idea of the teacher will be re-purposed. First, as digital facilitators. Later, the human component will be replaced all together with digital mentors and tutors. 

Teachers, at this point, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by standing up and fighting back against the push to destroy our public schools.

The only thing missing is the courage to do so.

Final thoughts.

The small bit of success I’ve experience as an activist has occurred by refusing to play the game and forcing my opponent to engage using my parameters and rules. Other critical elements have been: fearless friends, humor, and the willingness to let others join in and put their own spin on the action.

I believe all of us already have what’s needed to make change possible: a conscience and the ability to act. All we need is the courage to use these gifts.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

 

 

A Student Perspective on Staffing Cuts to the Center School’s Arts Program.

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photo courtesy of Ted Zee

Through most of middle school I was homeschooled. I was artistic and I didn’t learn in a conventional way.

I hated public schools and thought I’d never go back to them. Then towards the end of my 7th grade year, we found The Center School, and immediately started making plans to enroll. My mother passed away a few months later, and even in the months leading up to it she was so excited for me to go somewhere where I could express myself through art and learn in a way that would work for me.

I started taking classes at The Center School in early October of 2013. I immediately got immersed in the arts integration the school featured, and though I struggled with many classes, I always succeeded in Visual Communications, an introductory art class taught by Kevin McCarthy, a professional sculptor, painter, and digital artist with a passion for teaching and art like I’d never seen before.

Mr. McCarthy once called my father after school, my dad was obviously alarmed, he figured I was in trouble. To his surprise Kevin said, “Y’know, tonight I had to make some calls to parents about how bad their kids are. How disrespectful or whatever. But that gets depressing so every couple phone calls I call a parent to tell them the opposite.” He spent a couple minutes praising my art skills to my father. I’ve heard the same story from other students, a girl in my class cried when it happened, saying “It was the first time a teacher had ever told her I was good at something” as she sniffled.

But as of recently this school, and this amazing man have run into some trouble. Enrollment is dropping for some reason, and as a result the school is receiving less funding. They send a certain amount of cash per student, and this system is designed for schools with upwards of 800 kids, not less than 250.

As a result the school has had to make some tough calls. They had to figure out what to do. What to cut, what to change. My American Studies Teacher, Andrew Bell said of the meetings where this voting happened, “I have never been in a room where the air was more tense and thick”. The drop in funding is forcing the school to cut or at least limit the fine arts curriculum of the school.

As of the current plan, AP Art, Adv. Drawing and Painting, and Sculpture could be cut, and by extension, Kevin McCarthy, a teacher who changed my perspective of art classes, and changed another student’s perspective of her academic self, may have to leave forever.

There was a stirring in the school when this info started to trickle out. Kids were mad, kids were sad, kids were confused. I was all of the above and more.
I got tired of inaction so I made an impulsive and simple decision. I made a facebook event encouraging students to walk out of the school in solidarity, sign a petition saying they want the arts back, and march to the district headquarters to deliver it. Within a few hours over a sixth of the school was on board.

From there I started canvassing the school at lunch. I had just finished getting my 75th signature when I got in touch with a group of other students. Ella, Christine, Isabelle, and Reilly, a group of Sophomores who I didn’t know very well. They told me that they though my walkout sounded a bit drastic and harsh, they wanted to come at the problem from a more diplomatic and reasonable angle. We argued, discussed, and eventually decided to work together.

We five formed a group called the CSCAF, the Committee of Students Concerned About Funding. We’re coordinating hundreds of angry and confused students, giving them information, helping them work together, and helping them let their voices be heard.

A group of students are working on a press release, another is working on a documentary film, more are making art, and even more are planning a benefit event.

Currently we’re planning the walkout, trying to make it as safe, coordinated, and effective as possible. It will be on: May 3rd at 9:00 AM (30 minutes after school starts)

From there we’ll hop on the Streetcar and make our way to the Seattle Public Schools Building and present them with our demands and signatures.

At the core of the whole thing is a passion for art, a passion for learning, and a need to feel listened to. We want our school to get the money it needs to function at full power. We want to have a voice in how the money the school receives is spent.
And we want Kevin to stay, damn it.

-By Frank Hillary, Grade 11 at Center School

The Walking Wounded

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       On this day when we are to remember all who have fought and died in the wars that the United States has participated in, let’s also remember the walking wounded, those who are still among us but are now just shadows of what they once were, vital, young men and women who now suffer in ways that we cannot imagine and yet receive little to no support from our government.

       When the war in Iraq first began, I started to hear stories about the families left behind who had to go to food banks to receive enough to eat while the soldier was putting their life on the line for a cause that they felt was just, protecting the American people.

       These were soldiers who were called into duty as members of the National Guard. They did not receive the same benefits as those who were in the Army, Marine Corps or Navy. There are no subsidies for these families and yet Bush was calling them up one by one and they served. The irony of course is that during the Vietnam War, one way to get out of actually fighting was to join the National Guard. The National Guard was not called upon to fight overseas, simply to protect and assist in the United States. Bush joined the National Guard. Bush is the epitome of a “chicken hawk”.

       The phrase “Support our Troops” rings hollow in my ear when I hear it come from the mouths of those who truly do not care what happens to those who have fought their wars and are left with nothing.

       On this Memorial Day, let’s also recognize those among us who are here and yet have become invisible to us and who the government has actively chosen to ignore. Those in wheel chairs, those who are homeless, men and women who are emotionally wounded, those who have been raped and those who would rather die than continue to live.

       These are our children, the young men and women who came back broken and need our support to heal.

       There are walking wounded on both sides of each war. There are children, men and women who suffer daily from loss, wounds, emotional and physical, a demolished home or neighborhood and living in the chaos of war and its aftermath.

       Today I’ll start with Thomas Young.

From Chris Hedges:

One of First Iraq Veterans to Publicly Oppose War Will Die for Our Sins

Thomas Young viewing Ground Zero.
Thomas Young viewing Ground Zero.

I flew to Kansas City last week to see Tomas Young. Young was paralyzed in Iraq in 2004. He is now receiving hospice care at his home. I knew him by reputation and the movie documentary “Body of War.” He was one of the first veterans to publicly oppose the war in Iraq. He fought as long and as hard as he could against the war that crippled him, until his physical deterioration caught up with him.

“I had been toying with the idea of suicide for a long time because I had become helpless,” he told me in his small house on the Kansas City outskirts where he intends to die. “I couldn’t dress myself. People have to help me with the most rudimentary of things. I decided I did not want to go through life like that anymore. The pain, the frustration. …”

To read this article in full, go to truthout.

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Bill Moyers discussion with Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro on the documentary “Body of War”.

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Thomas Young now.
Thomas Young now.

       On Democracy Now, an interview with Thomas Young:

Dying Iraq War Veteran Tomas Young Explains Decision to End His Life.

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       A friend of mine has a brother who suffered emotional and physical wounds from the Iraq war. My friend spent most of her free time dealing with the VA to get support for treatment of her brother’s wounds. It was frustrating and demoralizing for both of them and yet he was lucky, he had an advocate. Many don’t.

From Amy Goodman who continually brings attention to the plight of our soldiers:

Army Strips Benefits of Wounded Veterans by Kicking Them Out for Misconduct

A new investigation by the Colorado Springs Gazette says the U.S. Army is downsizing from a decade of war by increasingly kicking out soldiers, including wounded combat veterans. Despite serving multiple tours of duty, the wounded soldiers lose their medical care and other benefits for life.

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Veterans Administration Battles Backlog of Claims for Wounded Soldiers

On Veterans Day, we look at a major new investigation by journalist Aaron Glantz that questions the government’s commitment to soldiers struggling to re-enter civilian life. Called “Accuracy isn’t priority as VA battles disability claims backlog,” the report reveals how thousands of veterans have been denied disability benefits as a result of errors by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Glantz tells the story of Navy veteran Hosea Roundtree, whose claim for disability compensation was denied by the VA despite Roundtree suffering flashbacks of a shelling he witnessed in Beirut while aboard a U.S. Navy ship in 1983. The VA has a duty to assist veterans in developing their facts and evidence to support their claims, but the department reprimanded one of its own employees for attempting to do just that for Roundtree. Jamie Fox lost her job in 2008 after she wrote a memo to her boss arguing that Roundtree’s disability benefits were being denied wrongfully.

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You can watch the video:

Mother of Iraq Veteran Who Committed Suicide: “Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, Stop the Wars”

On a makeshift stage outside the NATO summit in Chicago, antiwar veterans fold an American flag that flew over NATO operations from Bosnia to Libya and which represents the flag that is “draped over the coffins of thousands of Americans killed in combat and thousands more who have committed suicide after they returned from service.” They present the flag to Mary Kirkland, mother of Derrick Kirkland, who joined the military in 2007 and committed suicide in March 2010 after his second tour of duty in Iraq. “I am not ashamed that I have to tell people that my son committed suicide. I am ashamed of the military for failing to give him proper mental health treatment,” Kirkland says. The military originally reported that her son was killed in action.

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Iraqi Civilians Join U.S. Veterans in New Effort to Recover from War’s Devastation

On the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, we look at how U.S. military veterans and Iraqi civilians have come together to launch the “Right to Heal” campaign for those who continue to struggle with the war’s aftermath. We’re joined by U.S. Army Sergeant Maggie Martin, who was part of the invading force in March 2003 and is now director of organizing for Iraq Veterans Against the War. We are also joined by Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, who describes how the condition of women has deteriorated in Iraq, with many young women and orphans pushed into sex trafficking. Mohammed’s organization has also documented the toxic legacy of the U.S. military’s munitions in Iraq by interviewing Iraqi mothers who face an epidemic of birth defects.

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I’ll end this with a song by Rise Against.

-Dora Taylor