There’s actually a bit of good news this week hidden among the atrocities. “No Child Left Behind” has been replaced with “Every Child Succeeds”. That sounds like one replacing one bit of jargon for another. However, there’s some substantive changes and there’s some hope it will be good for teachers, students, and taxpayers.
The testing and accountability regime–which really led to a layer of bureaucracy, massive testing and costs–has been criticized by the education community since its inception. I remember hearing it called “No Teacher Left Standing” by friends teaching in the Public Education system. It’s a function of corporate bureaucrat think which basically frames all situations in terms of no one can be trusted but a report-generating middle man who basically just ensures every one does their jobs based on some really bizarre set of standards invented by Corporate CEOS like Romney, Fiorino and Trump who notably have no clue what they’re doing in their own companies let alone a school system.
Select “educational outcomes” were boiled down to the most base things and it resulted in teaching to a particular test because teachers feared for their jobs. The idea of developing a child’s critical thinking skills, their ability to work with others, and their basic nature of surging, fixating and mastering one content area using a variety of different senses was ignored. As a result, “No Child Left Behind” represented the worst of American Business practices. Trivial outcomes were emphasized. Control was paramount. The humanity of teachers and students was ignored. Bureaucratic managers and unnecessary consultants raked in money as Districts struggled to implement and report results.
Unfortunately, this mindset has also crept into Higher Education and I can tell you that my job has switched from teaching to constantly grading stuff, reporting on outcomes, and paperwork. It’s not a good situation for any one. It creates a really stressful, negative environment too.
Here’s a good basic outline by USA Today on what’s changing. This was a bipartisan effort which has been extremely rare given the pledge by Republicans to thwart any possible Obama-backed law.
No Child Left Behind:
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, was a civil rights law that provided education funding to states and attempted to ensure that every student had access to an education. The law would expire every three to five years, requiring Congress to reauthorize it. In 2001, Democrats and Republicans in Congress became increasingly concerned by the growing achievement gaps that left poor and minority students in failing schools, and devised a system of testing and accountability to fix it. “The fundamental principle of this bill is that every child can learn, we expect every child to learn, and you must show us whether or not every child is learning,” President George W. Bush said in the Jan. 8, 2002, signing ceremony.
Every Student Succeeds Act: The new law tries to preserve the spirit of No Child Left Behind, while fixing what were widely perceived as its one-size-fits-all approach.“The goals of No Child Left Behind, the predecessor of this law, were the right ones: High standards. Accountability. Closing the achievement gap,” Obama said Thursday. “But in practice, it often fell short. It didn’t always consider the specific needs of each community. It led to too much testing during classroom time. It often forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see.”
The new law changes much about the federal government’s role in education, largely by scaling back Washington’s influence. While ESSA keeps in place the basic testing requirements of No Child Left Behind, it strips away many of the high stakes that had been attached to student scores.
The job of evaluating schools and deciding how to fix them will shift largely back to states. Gone too is the requirement, added several years ago by the Obama administration, that states use student scores to evaluate teachers.
The new law, which passed the House and Senate with rare, resounding bipartisan support, would also expand access to high-quality preschool.
Before the signing, President Obama made clear that he believed the goals of NCLB — namely high standards, accountability and closing the achievement gap — were the right ones. But in practice, he said, the law fell short.
“It often forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see,” Obama said.
NCLB was signed by President George W. Bush in early 2002 and was, itself, an update of a much older law — the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. While ESSA officially marks the end of the NCLB era, the majority of states have for several years received waivers from the Obama administration, exempting them from some of the law’s toughest requirements.
Minnesota Senator Al Franken was a key supporter and mover for the change. You can see his speech to the Senate encouraging a yes vote on the bill on his web page. Minnesota is a state that is consistently one of the best for educational outcomes and has a vibrant public school system.
Now, this bill is not perfect. But it’s a huge improvement over NCLB. Over the last 13 years, we learned that the one-size-fits-all approach to fixing failing schools wasn’t working. That’s why this bill is designed to find a balance between giving states more flexibility while still making sure that states intervene and fix schools where students are not learning.
Over the last several years, I’ve met with principals, teachers, students, parents, and school administrators in Minnesota. These conversations have helped me develop my education priorities to help improve our schools, our communities, and our nation’s future. I worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground, and I’m very pleased that many of my priorities to improve student outcomes and close the achievement gap are reflected in the legislation that is before us today.
These priorities include things like strengthening STEM education, expanding student mental health services, increasing access to courses that help high school students earn college credit, and improving the preparation and recruitment of principals for high need schools. I also successfully fought to renew the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program which provides critical after-school learning activities for students. Another one of my priorities helps increase the number of counselors and social workers in our schools.
And my provision to allow states to use Computer Adaptive Tests will go a long way toward improving the quality of assessments used in our schools and will give teachers and parents more accurate and timely information on their students’ progress.
I was also able to include a new Native language immersion program because I believe language is critical to maintaining cultural heritage and helping Native American students succeed. In addition, I wrote a provision to provide foster children who move to new school districts the opportunity to stay at their current school if it’s in their best interest.
Again, I’m very pleased that these priorities have been included in the legislation we are considering today, and I thank my colleagues for working with me on them. These provisions will help hundreds of thousands of students in Minnesota and across the country reach their full potential.
So one of the most interesting things that has just come out of the battle royale that is the republican presidential primary campaign is the news that a supposed “secret” meeting took place among establishment Republicans like Dick Cheney. There is now official talk of a brokered convention. Establishment Republicans have been concerned about the rise of both Donald Trump and Ben Carson and the incredible chaos that’s occurred because of differences in priorities between insurgent and establishment Republicans. We may be looking at an event that hasn’t happened for some time.
Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as businessman Donald Trump continues to sit atop the polls in the GOP presidential race.
More than 20 of them convened Monday near the Capitol for a dinner held by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, and the prospect of Trump nearing next year’s nominating convention in Cleveland with a significant number of delegates dominated the discussion, according to five people familiar with the meeting.
Weighing in on that scenario as Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listened, several longtime Republican power brokers argued that if the controversial billionaire storms through the primaries, the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative, the people said.
The development represents a major shift for veteran Republican strategists, who until this month had spoken of a brokered convention only in the most hypothetical terms — and had tried to encourage a drama-free nomination by limiting debates and setting an earlier convention date.
Now, those same leaders see a floor fight as a real possibility. And so does Trump, who said in an interview last week that he, too, is preparing.
Ben Carson on Friday blasted the Republican National Committee following a Washington Post report that nearly two-dozen establishment party figures were prepping for a potential brokered convention as Donald Trump continues to lead most polls.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus held a dinner in Washington, D.C., on Monday, and, according to five people who spoke with the Post, the possibility of Trump heading into the Cleveland convention with a substantial number of delegates was a topic of discussion. Some attendees suggested the establishment lay the groundwork for a floor fight that could lead the party’s mainstream wing to unite behind an alternative. Carson rejected this approach.
“If the leaders of the Republican Party want to destroy the party, they should continue to hold meetings like the one described in the Washington Post this morning,” Carson said in a statement released by his campaign.
Carson said he prays the Post’s report is incorrect and threatened to leave the GOP. “If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won’t stand for it,” said Carson, who added that if the plot is accurate, “I assure you Donald Trump won’t be the only one leaving the party.”
The retired neurosurgeon said that next summer’s Cleveland convention could be the last Republican National Convention if leaders try to manipulate it.
“I am prepared to lose fair and square, as I am sure is Donald,” Carson said. “But I will not sit by and watch a theft. I intend on being the nominee. If I am not, the winner will have my support. If the winner isn’t our nominee then we have a massive problem.”
Establishment Republicans fear that Donald Trump–as their presidential nominee–means that Democratic party will have a real chance at taking back the Senate and even the House. The Cook Political Report explains that this might be an overreaction.
To most Republican strategists, there’s no bigger nightmare than Donald Trump as the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2016. This week, just about every Democrat running for president, Senate, House, and their respective campaign committees sought to tie Republicans to Trump and brand them one big bunch of xenophobes. Talk of a down-ballot Republican apocalypse has reached fever pitch.
Even setting aside the remoteness of a scenario in which Trump would face Hillary Clinton in a one-on-one contest, such talk is premature and possibly overblown.
Given Trump’s unpopularity with the electorate overall, there’s a possibility he could end an era of very close and competitive presidential elections and suffer a landslide defeat (by modern standards). But what would that mean down-ballot? If Trump becomes his own radioactive island, GOP candidates in swing districts would have no choice but to renounce him and run far away for cover.
The challenge in assessing their odds for survival in such a scenario is that there hasn’t been a blowout presidential election in a very long time. However, history is on the GOP’s side.
Since 1960, there have only been three elections in which one candidate prevailed by a double-digit margin in a presidential race: Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater in 1964 (by 22.6 percent), Richard Nixon over George McGovern in 1972 (by 23.2 percent), and Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale in 1984 (by 18.2 percent). In all three instances, Democrats retained control of the House.
Despite the predictable outcome of each of the three landslides, there is scant evidence the losing side’s demoralized voters stayed home in huge numbers or bolted their party en masse down-ballot compared to the previous presidential cycle. In each case, voters seemed to evaluate presidential candidates on a case-by-case basis but stuck with their core party preferences for Congress.
With Donald Trump’s ruinous domination of the Republican primary polls showing no signs of abating, top leaders in the GOP are reportedly now preparing for the possibility of a contentious brokered convention next year in Cleveland.
If that happens, a small group of wealthy donors and die-hard loyalists close to Mitt Romney will be ready with a strategy to win him the nomination from the convention floor.
Romney thought seriously about entering the 2016 race earlier this year, and ultimately decided against it. But as I report in my new book, The Wilderness, when the former Republican nominee informed friends, family, and a few close allies late in January that he was going to announce his decision to bow out, some urged him to reconsider:
The Republicans have seriously lost it. All I can say is that Nixon’s Southern Strategy has caused the vultures to come home to roost.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I don’t even know where to begin this morning. I wish I could write a coherent diatribe like the one Dakinikat wrote yesterday, but I can’t do it. I have a sense that things are very wrong, but I can’t explain the feeling in any rational way.
As we head into the holiday season, I feel as if the country is leaderless. The public focus of the Obama administration and the media is on the glitches in a website; and yet in the background are terrible problems that are building and growing more and more intractable as our political “leadership” fiddles with nonsensical issues like Obamacare and Benghazi.
As Dakinikat noted yesterday, there is a problem of growing poverty and income inequality become institutionalized and normalized. There is the issue of gun violence and our total failure to respond to it with any kind of rational regulations on guns. There is the devolution of education in the U.S., and of course there is the continuing attack on women’s autonomy and Democratic politicians seeming willingness to use women’s bodies as bargaining chips. Finally there are the already institutionalized problems of racism and hatred of immigrants. What have I missed?
As our real problem grow, it seems the American political and media classes, either don’t notice because as part of the wealthy 1% they simply aren’t affected, or because they’ve got theirs and they just don’t care about the mass of people who are struggling to survive in a poisonous system. And because of the obsessive focus on the end-of-year holidays, nothing will happen in Washington until we hit the next debt limit and our “leaders” mobilize briefly to kick the can of our economic and social problems down the road once again and so they can return to their focus on minutiae.
Is there any solution to the political and economic stagnation we find ourselves in? Is the situation really as surreal as it feels to me on this Tuesday morning? Am I nuts?
Anyway, here a some of the stories leading the news at the moment.
Jeff Bezos tells Amazon customers to expect home delivery by drones. NBC News reports:
Amazon.com hopes to deliver small packages to your home in just 30 minutes by unmanned drones within five years, chief executive Jeff Bezos said Sunday.
In an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Bezos was actually less optimistic than what his company said in its online announcement, which declared that tiny robot aircraft could be landing on front porches as soon as 2015.
Bezos said Amazon already had the technology in place and had even flown a working prototype, which he showed off in a video the company published Sunday:
He promised “half-hour delivery, and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.”
The rest of the work, Bezos said, is in quality control and getting the plan OK’d by the Federal Aviation Administration — something technology experts said was unlikely on Bezos’ time frame.
So basically, this is just a silly idea that has no chance of actually happening anytime soon. But the media sees it as more urgent than poverty, income inequality, and people getting killed with guns day in and day out.
From the Washington Post: U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test.
Scores in math, reading and science posted by 15-year-olds in the United States were flat while their counterparts elsewhere — particularly in Shanghai, Singapore and other Asian provinces or countries — soared ahead, according to results of a well-regarded international exam released Tuesday.
While U.S. teenagers scored slightly above average in reading, their scores were average in science and below average in math, compared to 64 other countries and economies that participated in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which was administered last fall. That pattern has not changed much since PISA was first administered in 2000.
Gee, I wonder why this is happening? It seems like something that should concern our “leaders.”
The test scores offer fresh evidence for those who argue that the United States is losing ground to competitors in the global market and others who say a decade’s worth of school reform has done little to improve educational outcomes.
“While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools — has failed to improve the quality of American public education,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. The AFT released a video on Monday in which it implored the public not to blame teachers, the unions, parents or students for poor PISA results.
But were intentions really good? Check out these years-old headlines on profiteers (including the Bush family) who cleaned up after passage of the Orwellianly titled “No Child Left Behind” law was passed.
Bush Profiteers Collect Billions from No Child Left Behind (Project Censored: The News That Didn’t Make The News, March 30, 2007)
Bush’s Family Profits From `No Child’ Act (LA Times, Oct. 22, 2006)
No Bush Left Behind (Bloomerg Businessweek, Oct. 15, 2006)
There are plenty more headlines where those came from.
And yet, nearly a decade later, we’re stuck with that awful law and the damage it has done to our public education system. Why have Democrats done nothing to reverse it? Most likely because they too profit from the continuing privatization of education.
What about the latest media narrative on Obama care?
From the Washington Post: Health-care enrollment on Web plagued by bugs:
The enrollment records for a significant portion of the Americans who have chosen health plans through the online federal insurance marketplace contain errors — generated by the computer system — that mean they might not get the coverage they’re expecting next month.
The errors cumulatively have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1, according to two government and health-care industry officials. The White House disputed the figure but declined to provide its own.
The mistakes include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies. The errors have been accumulating since HealthCare.gov opened two months ago, even as the Obama administration has been working to make it easier for consumers to sign up for coverage, the government and industry officials said.
Figuring out how to clean up the backlog of errors and prevent similar ones in the future is emerging as the new imperative if the federal insurance exchange is to work as intended. The problems were the subject of a meeting Monday between administration officials and a new “Payer Exchange Performance Team” made up of insurance industry leaders.
Okay, but what is with the bizarre impatience about some computer glitches from a media that couldn’t care less about institutionalized poverty, racism, and gun violence? And then there’s the Obama administration’s defensive response, as reported by USA Today: Obama to launch new health care law campaign
President Obama and his aides will seek to rally public support for his embattled health care plan in the coming weeks, starting with a White House event Tuesday.
Obama will promote the effort in a speech while surrounded by people who have benefited from the new law, according to an addition to the White House schedule.
The Affordable Care Act has come under heavy political attack since its rollout in October. Problems have included a malfunctioning website and the cancellations of polices that do not meet new federal standards.
In the coming days, Obama and aides will highlight what they call successful aspects of the law. They include provisions that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing health conditions, and allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26.
A few writers have tried to look at the “Obamacare crisis” slightly more rationally than the mainstream corporate media.
Here’s Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter: As Healthcare.gov Bugs Are Fixed, the ‘Obama’s Katrina’ Script Continues To Be Shredded.
It’s been 11 days since The National Journal‘s Ron Fournier wrote that Obamacare is President Obama’s Katrina. Oh, and it’s also his Iraq, Fournier wrote. Obama’s Katrina and Iraq. Both.
Since then, however, the Healthcare.gov website has been vastly improved and many of the bugs initially reported have been fixed, according to the administration late Sunday.
Back on November 20, Fournier made sure to provide himself with an escape hatch, though, noting that Healthcare.gov isn’t the same in terms of the actual events during and after Katrina, or throughout the Iraq War. Instead, Fournier wrote, the similarities had more to do with incompetence in the execution of a major policy initiative.
Yeah, so incompetence that lasted literally for years in both Iraq and New Orleans, leading to massive body counts on both fronts, is the same as a glitchy website launch. Okeedokee. Roger that. In reality, yes, both administrations made mistakes, but those mistakes were vastly different in terms of magnitude — not to mention that the Bush administration’s response to its mistakes was to, well, make even more mistakes. Again, foryears.
On the other hand, the Obama administration realized there were problems with the website and rushed to address those errors. Within two months most of those problems have been resolved, and, bonus, no one died.
For more rational perspective, read the rest of the post at the link.
I particularly like this uncharacteristically long post by TBogg at Raw Story: Are-We-There-Yet?-American [sic] just wants to go home because we aren’t there yet. Here’s just a taste:
You may remember that about a month ago, which is four score and seven years ago to the iPhone generation for whom a Japandroids download that takes over 20 seconds is an eternity times infinity, that the Great Socialism Project That Will Stomp America Flat (aka Obamacareor Communism) had some internet user problems which is why there are absolutely no healthcare services available in America right now so you should just rub some dirt on your burst appendix, suck it up, and quit yer bellyaching. In an effort to fix what wasn’t working, the Obama White House brought in some better quality nerds who, fortified with 5 Hour Energy IV drips, promised to get it up and working by Dec 1 or GTFO.
Please go read the rest.
Charles Pierce also had a few choice words for Ron Fournier and the rest of the Obama-hating press.
Ace reporter Ron Fournier of the Associated Press has another scoop for y’all. There is absolutely no fking way on god’s green and pleasant earth that this Obama fellow will be elected president again. He has blown his chance for that third term, and probably the fourth and fifth as well. Ron would like the Pulitzer committee to leave the medallion on the doorstep. Watch out, Obama. The Horsemen ride at daybreak! [….]
I heard my friend Eric Boehlert on the radio this morning, warning us that the traditional end-of-the-year retrospectives are likely to sing in close harmony on the theme of the collapsing Obama administration, even though his poll numbers are pretty much where they’ve been for a couple of years now, and even though the Republicans in Congress continue to have the approval ratings of skin disease. I think he’s right, and I think Fournier, who’s been a tool so long they ought to sell him at Home Depot, is just trying to get a jump on things here.
More hilarity at the link.
And what’s with the efforts to deny that racism exists? From Raw Story: Black female professor reprimanded for pointing out existence of structural racism to white male students.
A faculty member at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Shannon Gibney, received a formal reprimand for her handling of a discussion about structural racism in her Introduction to Mass Communication course.
According to Gibney in an interview with City College News, a white male student asked her, “Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?”
She claims she was shocked, because “[h]is whole demeanor was very defensive. He was taking it personally. I tried to explain, of course, in a reasonable manner — as reasonable as I could given the fact that I was being interrupted and put on the spot in the middle of class — that this is unfortunately the context of 21st century America.”
Gibney says another white male student followed the first, saying “Yeah, I don’t get this either. It’s like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?”
When Gibney attempted, again, to inform the students that they were mistaking a systemic critique for a personal attack, the students continued to argue. Eventually, she told them that “if you’re really upset, feel free to go down to legal affairs and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint.” This is exactly what they did.
This probably has something to do with our f’d up education system too . . . . As far as I can tell, critical thinking has been banned.
Okay, I’ve ranted long enough. What interesting news have you been reading? Let us know in the comment thread.
My eyes popped open at 5:30 this morning, and I could not go back to sleep. So while checking my RSS feeds I found a few articles from Alternet that you should take a look at. I will just post the link and a small part of the article to tease you…
First this look at a British documentary that spanned decades, The Brutal Truth About How Childhood Determines Your Economic Destiny
“Give me the child until he is seven,” the old Jesuit teachers say, “and I will give you the man.”
Back in 1964, filmmaker Paul Almond set out to test that theory by documenting the lives of a group of seven-year-old British children. Some were born to the manor; others grew up in charity homes. There were tykes from both the countryside and the city. Almond wanted to know if the destiny of the children had already been scripted by the circumstances of their birth — particularly those of class. His film Seven Up! has grown into a series spanning over five decades. Every seven years, like the cycle in some mythological saga, Michael Apted, the assistant on the original project, has returned to these children as they have morphed before our eyes into awkward adolescents, tentative adults, and now, the paunchy survivors of late middle-age.
As bright-eyed children, participants like Jackie Bassett, the product of a working-class neighborhood, or Andrew Brackfield, who attends a posh prep school, are already miles apart in attitude and habits. Tellingly, the children speak very differently about what they see in their future. Those from the higher ranks already know which universities they’ll attend, while Paul Kligarman, who lives at the charity home, asks plaintively, “What’s a university?”
This article is written by Lynn Parramore, and although I have disagreed with her position before…she does an excellent job on laying out the resulting class structures that conservative policies and austerity bring about…you know, the death of upward mobility.
On to another interesting long reads, this time written by Jennifer Holladay: Why Are 8 Year-Olds Reading Stories That Glorify Rape?
Last spring, my 2nd-grade daughter came home with an extra assignment—a worksheet she hadn’t completed in class for a story called “The Selkie Girl.” She brought the book home, too, and it was one I’d never seen before, a Junior Great Books anthology (Series 3, Book 1), published by the nonprofit Great Books Foundation.
As we settled in, I asked my daughter to tell me about “The Selkie Girl.” Her rendition gave me pause, so I asked her to do her other homework first. She turned to a worksheet, and I cracked the book open.
“The Selkie Girl” is essentially about a magical seal-woman who is kidnapped and raped repeatedly during her long captivity. The man who holds her hostage proclaims early on that “I am in love” and “I want her to be my wife.” When he kidnapped her, “She was crying bitterly, but she followed him.” Later, the narrative tells us, “Because he was gentle and loving, she no longer wept. When their first child was born, he saw her smile.” When her means of escape is discovered, however, she explains quite bluntly to the children she bore: “For I was brought here against my will, 20 years past.”
It’s like the modern-day reality of Jaycee Dugard (who was kidnapped at age 11 in California and held captive with her two children for 18 years), told in folklore for the consumption of young children.
It is disturbing, but as you will read in the article, it goes back to conservative policies…this time the target is in education. I guess you can imagine where the discovery of this story “The Selkie Girl” will lead Holladay as she researches the publisher of the textbook, it is no surprise. Just read it.
On to another alternet post, this time a review of sorts of the latest crap written by Ben Shapiro. Conservatives Are Always Triumphant and Also an Oppressed Minority, According to Notably Stupid New Book
Ben Shapiro makes his living harrumphing over the sins of liberalism, and his new book doesn’t disappoint.
Being a doctrinaire conservative in this day and age requires you to do a lot of cognitive gymnastics. Luckily, the captain of the right’s gymnastic team is Ben Shapiro, who has been an exceptional contortionist since his YAF days, when he simultaneously boasted of his unfashionable virginity and scolded everyone else about their allegedly unconventional sex lives. Ben is married now, and presumably has engaged in heterosexual intercourse, but it hasn’t made him any happier or more relaxed, as he makes his living harrumphing over the sins of liberalism. Hey, just because it’s easy doesn’t mean someone should do it.
Though not himself large, Ben has wrangled, by virtue of being a nuance-impervious loudmouth, the position of editor-at-large at Breitbart.com. (You may recall that this position was once held by Andrew Breitbart himself, until his heart self-detonated rather than listen to him bellow for one more second.) This job entails being a sort of all-purpose complainer, a queen bee fat on the jelly of foundation grants, forever sending out drones to gather the sweet nectar of gripe. Just like that one guy on your Facebook who can’t relate to anything unless it has a Star Wars reference in it, Ben has cranked out book after book of impotent whining about how liberals are ruining everything with their education and their pornography and their crazy rock and roll and their hair. A 79-year-old man in the body of a failed attorney, his books (which I only hesitate to call unreadable because even I have better things to do than read them) attract praise from the kind of people who write books exactly like them — that is to say, endless litanies of alleged liberal treachery and evildoing.
And I will end with this post: Is The American Hemp Renaissance About to Begin?
Kentucky was America’s leading hemp producer in the early 19th century. Now, two hundreds year later, after a historic election for drug policy has led to a shift for marijuana policy reform in America, Kentucky lawmakers are taking steps to revive the crop. While advocates for hemplegalization say the plant could bring a wealth of green jobs to Kentucky, deep-rooted drug stigma and conflict with federal law have made t he legislation’s passing unlikely. Nonetheless, two state bills are in the works, while a federal proposal aims to clear the way for state legalization. Lawmakers suggest the bills could at least open up the conversation about hemp, and clear misconceptions about its use.
Because hemp is increasingly imported from Canada, growing and making it in the US could save the US money and create green jobs at home. Aside from soy, no other plant has shown the potential to create so many different products — from hemp soap to paper and oil. Moreover, hemp rarely requires pesticides, can be grown in the same fields over several consecutive years, and produces biodegradable plastics and biofuels. Lightweight and dense, hemp-limeis a building material that known to be an efficient insulator leaving behind a minimal carbon footprint.
Which, in light of the current Midwestern drought that is bringing about comparisons to the great Dust Bowl, this long read about a historic plant like hemp was actually hopeful. However, like most of the articles I’ve shared today…seeing the problem and actually fixing it are two different things. I don’t know, maybe the real issue is staring us right in the face? Conservative policies don’t work, and it is painfully obvious to me that until we move away from these right-wing ideals…none of the solutions to many of our problems will ever get put into action.
Damn…now that is depressing.
Catch y’all later in the comment section, for now my eyelids are getting heavy and maybe I can get a few more hours sleep in before the kids way up.
Tuesday Reads: Targeting Citizens with Predator Drones while Failing to Protect and Nurture ChildrenPosted: December 13, 2011
Good Morning!! Yesterday Dakinikat wrote about predator drones being used by local law enforcement in North Dakota. According the the LA Times story Dakinikat referenced,
Michael C. Kostelnik, a retired Air Force general who heads the office that supervises the drones, said Predators are flown “in many areas around the country, not only for federal operators, but also for state and local law enforcement and emergency responders in times of crisis.” Yet Congress never approved the use of drones for this purpose.
…former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), who sat on the House homeland security intelligence subcommittee at the time and served as its chairwoman from 2007 until early this year, said no one ever discussed using Predators to help local police serve warrants or do other basic work.
Using Predators for routine law enforcement without public debate or clear legal authority is a mistake, Harman said.
But the article makes clear that law enforcement types are slavering over the possibility of using the sophisticated surveillance technology offered by drones–and without a warrant.
Glenn Greenwald had more at his blog yesterday. He says that the so-called “approval” for the use of predator drones on U.S. soil came because Customs administrators included the words “interior law enforcement support” in their budget request! And since Congresspeople rarely read the bills they vote on, no one noticed. So now government agents can spy on us and track us whenever they want, apparently.
Whatever else is true, the growing use of drones for an increasing range of uses on U.S. soil is incredibly consequential and potentially dangerous, for the reasons I outlined last week, and yet it is receiving very little Congressional, media or public attention. It’s just a creeping, under-the-radar change. Even former Congresswoman Harman — who never met a surveillance program she didn’t like and want to fund (until, that is, it was revealed that she herself had been subjected to covert eavesdropping as part of surveillance powers she once endorsed) — has serious concerns about this development: ”There is no question that this could become something that people will regret,” she told the LA Times. The revelation that a Predator drone has been used on U.S. soil this way warrants additional focus on this issue.
You’d better not be doing anything suspicious on your own property–like smoke a joint in the backyard or something. You could be spotted, raided, and thrown in jail in no time flat, all without a warrant.
Dakinikat sent me a link to this article at the NYT on the relationship between poverty and education: Class Matters. Why Won’t We Admit It?
No one seriously disputes the fact that students from disadvantaged households perform less well in school, on average, than their peers from more advantaged backgrounds. But rather than confront this fact of life head-on, our policy makers mistakenly continue to reason that, since they cannot change the backgrounds of students, they should focus on things they can control.
No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s signature education law, did this by setting unrealistically high — and ultimately self-defeating — expectations for all schools. President Obama’s policies have concentrated on trying to make schools more “efficient” through means like judging teachers by their students’ test scores or encouraging competition by promoting the creation of charter schools. The proverbial story of the drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost comes to mind.
The Occupy movement has catalyzed rising anxiety over income inequality; we desperately need a similar reminder of the relationship between economic advantage and student performance.
As a developmental psychologist I can tell you there are tons of studies that show that socioeconomic status (SES) is related to many different variables. This is a fairly complex issue, because poor people are disadvantaged in so many ways. Poor families are more likely to have only one breadwinner–usually a mother–who is probably overwhelmed by stress and worry. That leaves mom with much less energy to spend talking to and reading to her children.
A researcher I know slightly, Catherine Snow of the Harvard School of Education, worked on a number of government-funded longitudinal studies that investigated this. The research showed that very young children who are talked to, encouraged to tell stories about things that happened to them, and are read to in an interactive way are better prepared for literacy and will perform better in school than children who don’t get those kinds of attention. Interestingly, they found that the best predictor of academic success is a child’s vocabulary.
Children in poor families may also be stressed by inadequate nutrition, abuse from stressed-out parents, and perhaps exposure to violence in their neighborhoods. This kind of stress leads to higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which in turn can cause all kinds of problems, including obesity.
Back to the NYT article:
The correlation has been abundantly documented, notably by the famous Coleman Report in 1966. New research by Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University traces the achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families over the last 50 years and finds that it now far exceeds the gap between white and black students.
Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that more than 40 percent of the variation in average reading scores and 46 percent of the variation in average math scores across states is associated with variation in child poverty rates.
International research tells the same story. Results of the 2009 reading tests conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment show that, among 15-year-olds in the United States and the 13 countries whose students outperformed ours, students with lower economic and social status had far lower test scores than their more advantaged counterparts within every country. Can anyone credibly believe that the mediocre overall performance of American students on international tests is unrelated to the fact that one-fifth of American children live in poverty?
Why does the government ignore this research–much of which has been done with government funding? There has been no effort to deal with the source of the problem–poverty–just bullheaded efforts to force schools to meet unrealistic standards. The authors admit that many in the government want public schools to fail so that education can be privatized and turned into a profit-making corporate enterprise.
The authors offer some suggestions, but since none of our elected officials seems to want to deal with the problem of increasing poverty among children in this country, their ideas come off sounding pretty weak.
This article really hit home with me, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why America as a whole doesn’t seem to care about children. I’ve been trying to write about post about it, but have struggled to put my ideas into words. I might as well just put some of it down here. My thoughts were not only about education, but also about the problems of protecting children from abuse and exploitation.
Children are our future. It’s a cliche because it’s true. We spend billions of dollars on the ridiculous and dangerous Department of “Homeland Security,” and we do very little at the federal level to protect children from poverty (one in four young children in the U.S. live in poverty), violence, abuse, and exploitation.
We are destroying our system of public education by requiring standardized tests instead of teaching children critical thinking. We encourage profit-making charter schools instead of providing more support for public schools.
In my fantasy future government, the President would have a cabinet level department devoted exclusively to children’s issues. This department would focus on designing the very best possible educational system for young children. There would be a strong focus on early childhood education, and especially on educating parents about the best ways to foster future academic success for their children, based on serious research. The department would work with the NIH and NSF to provide research grants to study these educational issues.
In addition, the department could develop ways to deal with the rampant abuse of children–physical, emotional, and sexual–that takes place in this country. The need for this is obvious if you read the news regularly. Children are beaten, raped, and murdered in their own homes every day. They are sexually abused in schools and in organized activities by people who should be protecting and guiding them. And people who hurt and kill children generally receive lighter sentences than those who prey on adults.
What has prompted me to think about these issues is not only the recent high-profile sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, but the stories that have been breaking recently about child sexual abuse in the Hollywood entertainment industry.
Two men who worked with child actors were recently arrested, Jason James Murphy, who worked on the well-received movie Super-8, and Martin Weiss, a talent agent.
The arrests have led a number of former child actors to come forward and talk about being abused as children. Reuters covered the story last week.
First, it was the Catholic Church. Then Penn State. Now, a new child-abuse scandal in Hollywood is raising questions over the safety of minors in the entertainment business and sparking calls for new child-labor regulations.
Last week Martin Weiss, a longtime manager of young talent, was arrested on suspicion of child molestation after an 18-year-old former client told police he had been abused by Weiss 30 to 40 times from 2005 to 2008.
Weiss’ arrest came just weeks after it was discovered that a convicted child molester and registered sex offender under the name Jason James Murphy was working in Hollywood and helping cast children for movie roles.
TheWrap contacted a wide array of professionals and found a mix of surprise, and those that say that this type of abuse is an ongoing concern, pointing to abuse allegations over the years by actors such as the late Corey Haim and Todd Bridges.
Other former child actors who have talked openly about the problem are Paul Peterson who appeared on The Donna Reed Show, Allison Arngrim from Little House on the Prairie, and Corey Feldman, who appeared on Nightline in August to talk about his own abuse.
“I can tell you that the No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia. That’s the biggest problem for children in this industry. … It’s the big secret,” Feldman said.
The “casting couch,” which is the old Hollywood reference to actors being expected to offer sex for roles, applied to children, Feldman said. “Oh, yeah. Not in the same way. It’s all done under the radar,” he said.
“I was surrounded by [pedophiles] when I was 14 years old. … Didn’t even know it. It wasn’t until I was old enough to realize what they were and what they wanted … till I went, Oh, my God. They were everywhere,” Feldman, 40, said.
The trauma of pedophilia contributed to the 2010 death of his closest friend and “The Lost Boys” co-star, Corey Haim, Feldman said.
“There’s one person to blame in the death of Corey Haim. And that person happens to be a Hollywood mogul. And that person needs to be exposed, but, unfortunately, I can’t be the one to do it,” Feldman said, adding that he, too, had been sexually abused by men in show business.
Another child star from an earlier era agrees that Hollywood has long had a problem with pedophilia. “When I watched that interview, a whole series of names and faces from my history went zooming through my head,” Paul Peterson, 66, star of The Donna Reed Show, a sitcom popular in the 1950s and 60s, and president of A Minor Consideration, tells FOXNews.com. “Some of these people, who I know very well, are still in the game.”
“This has been going on for a very long time,” concurs former “Little House on the Prairie” star Alison Arngrim. “It was the gossip back in the ‘80s. People said, ‘Oh yeah, the Coreys, everyone’s had them.’ People talked about it like it was not a big deal.”
Arngrim, 49, was referring to Feldman and his co-star in “The Lost Boys,” Corey Haim, who died in March 2010 after years of drug abuse.
“I literally heard that they were ‘passed around,’” Arngrim said. “The word was that they were given drugs and being used for sex. It was awful – these were kids, they weren’t 18 yet. There were all sorts of stories about everyone from their, quote, ‘set guardians’ on down that these two had been sexually abused and were totally being corrupted in every possible way.”
Yes, Virginia, child sexual abuse is common in every strata of our society. It’s not rare, and it’s time we got serious about dealing with it. If we had a Cabinet department of children’s issues, we could address the problem with public education programs. It worked for smoking and littering–why not try it with child abuse?
The department could request that the media show public service announcements to educate parents about nonviolent ways of disciplining their children and about the dangers of hitting or otherwise abusing children. I firmly believe that child abuse is the root cause of many of society’s ills–including domestic abuse, pedophilia, rape, murder, and serial murder. The majority of abused children don’t grow up to be perpetrators, but they often turn their anger on themselves, becoming depressed or suicidal or self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
High profile cases like the Penn State and Hollywood casting scandal can often spur changes in societal attitudes. We should seize upon these issues to push Federal, state, and local governments to take positive action to improve the lives of American children.
Now I’ve rambled on too long and haven’t covered many stories. I’ll have to leave it to you to post what you’ve been reading and blogging about in the comments. If you made it this far, thanks for reading my somewhat incoherent thoughts.