Category Archives: Education

Qatar: Education as a Weapon

There seems to be no limit to Qataris tossing around their wealth. This tiny kingdom with 2.6 million inhabitants is full of ridiculously lavish gold-plated palaces, most of them built with terrible taste. It is overflowing with Lamborghini racing cars and Rolls Royce limousines, and now, even with ludicrously wasteful air-conditioned sidewalks (cold air blows from below, into the 35C heat).

Downtown Doha

Ruled by the House of Thani, the State of Qatar is truly a strange place: according to the latest count conducted in early 2017, its total population was 2.6 million, of which 313,000 were Qatari citizens and 2.3 million ‘expatriates’, both the low-wage migrant workers, and the lavishly remunerated Western professionals.

Foreigners are doing everything: sweeping the floors, cleaning garbage, cooking, taking care of babies, flying Qatar Airways planes, performing medical surgeries and building office towers. Manual laborers are discriminated against: beaten, cheated, humiliated. Many migrant workers have been dying under “mysterious circumstances”. But they are still coming, mainly because Qatar, with its GDP per capita of $128,702, is the richest country on earth, and because there is huge demand for hundreds of different professions. Never mind that the perks are for the ‘natives’ only, while the minimum wage for foreigners is only around $200 per month.

Jet from Udeid base

Locked in a bitter dispute with its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar is moving closer and closer to its best allies – the United States and United Kingdom. The Al Udeid Air Base hosts over 100 aircraft of the United States Air Force, Royal Air Force, and other Gulf War Coalition partners. It accommodates the forward headquarters of United States Central Command, No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group RAF, and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the USAF. Presently, at least 11,000 U.S. servicemen are permanently located here. Al Udeid Air Base is considered the most important military airport in the region, used for operations in countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.

Qatar has been playing an extremely important role in destabilizing Syria, and other countries in the Middle East. It has been spreading fundamentalist religious dogmas, as well as extreme capitalist creeds.

*****

Qatar has plenty of money, and it uses some of its funds for various ‘educational programs’, which are closely linked to the Western, particularly US and British but also Wahhabi propaganda apparatus. International experts hired from the West have been promoting such extreme concepts as the privatization of schools, keeping the governments away from developing curricula, and spreading pro-Western and pro-market doctrines throughout the region and beyond.

Under the cover of ‘saving children’, Qatari foundations and programs are promoting Muslim fundamentalism, as well as the commercialization of education. And that is not just in Qatar itself, but also as far away as Somalia, South Sudan and Kenya.

At university library

While at Qatar University, I noticed that even the libraries are segregated (predictably, I was told by a UN staff member based in Qatar, that the so-called “Men’s Library” is incomparably better supplied than women’s), Qatar wants to present itself as a regional leader in higher education, by spreading around regressive philosophy and mindsets.

Naturally, the main goal is to maintain the status quo in the region.

In terms of quality education, things don’t work in Qatar itself, either. With all those huge budgets burnt, or more precisely wasted, Qatar has very little to be proud of. According to the OECD:

In 2012, Qatar was ranked third from the bottom of the 65 OECD countries participating in the PISA test of math, reading and skills for 15- and 16-year-olds, comparable to Colombia or Albania, despite having the highest per capita income in the world.

Since then, things have not improved much, although statistics on the subject are suddenly not too widely available.

*****

At the end of October 2019, I found myself attending a conference, organized by the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, hosted by the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.

At the conference

Except one highly qualified UN expert (who had been working for years on the ground in Syria and other places destroyed by the West and its Gulf allies), the panel of speakers consisted of individuals based in and pampered by Qatar.

The line that was tugged here was predictable:

Professor Frank Hardman basically explained how the states in the region “became weak”, and how the private sector should be taking and pushing for the education reforms.

But the most astonishing discourse came from Prof. Maleiha Malik, Executive Director, of the Protection of Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC), Education Above All Foundation. She spoke about the importance of protecting vulnerable schools as well as children, in conflict zones, and about the international legal mechanisms “which are now in place”, designed to bring those who are destroying schools and pupils to justice.

In brief, a typical mainstream “development” and NGO talk.

Qatar is far from being a place where one could be free to speak up his or her mind.

But I had no patience left. I have worked in countless war and conflict zones, all over the world. And what I was witnessing at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies was nothing short of an indoctrination process of both the participants of the conference, as well as the students.

I demanded they let me speak. When the microphone was passed on to me, I said that I needed an exact answer:

Professor Malik, I have a question for you. I have been covering dozens, perhaps hundreds of conflicts and wars, all over the world. I saw hundreds of schools burning. I saw hundreds of children dead. Most of these atrocities were triggered by the United States, by Europe, or both. It all began long before I was born, of course, it is going on until now.

I saw the horror on the faces of the organizers. They were devouring me with their eyes, they were begging me to stop. Most likely, this has never happened here before. Everything was being filmed, recorded. But I was not ready to stop.

The students in aula did not react. They were clearly conditioned not to get excited by speeches delivered by ‘elements’ hostile to the regime.

I continued:

Professor Malik, I am asking you, I demand to know whether there was one single case when the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia or any other Western country was put on trial and condemned by those international mechanisms that you mentioned earlier… Condemned for murdering millions of children, or for carpet-bombing thousands of schools in such places like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and later in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria? For, right now, trying to starve children in Venezuela? For keeping people, including children, from having access to medicine…

Then I turned to Frank Hardman:

Professor Hardman, aren’t those states that you mention and defined as ‘weak’, in such a situation because they are being antagonized, attacked and terrorized by the West; by historically imperialist countries?

Total silence.

Then I concluded:

Wouldn’t it be the most effective way to protect schools and children if we’d make sure that the West and its allies would finally stop destroying dozens of countries all over the world?

The Chair of the conference, Prof. Sultan Barakat, went to work, immediately, trying to contain the damage:

Professor Malik, obviously, the question is about what is happening in Palestine…

But Professor Malik was a tough warrior, like myself, only from the opposite side. She knew precisely that it was all beyond Israel and Palestine. Israel and Palestine were part of it, but they were not the only issue here. She brushed off Sultan Barakat and went straight after my throat:

It is not about the West! It is not about one group of countries. All members of the UN Security Council are responsible! Look at Russia, committing atrocities in Syria…

And the shouting match began. Our personal “Doha debate”.

“Which atrocities?” I shouted at her. “Prove it.”

“We have proof.”

“You?” I wondered. “You went to Syria? Or is it that you were given so-called proof by your handlers? You put Russia, a country which is saving Syria and Venezuela, on the same level as the countries that are murdering hundreds of millions of people in all corners of the world?”

I recalled how many times during this ‘conference’ USAID was mentioned. All references were Western. Here, people from the Arab countries were speaking and thinking like the IMF, or The Economist.

I sat down. I had nothing else to add.

The controlled discussion somehow resumed. The faces of the students remained unmoved.

At night, I met for dinner a comrade with whom I used to work with in Afghanistan. Doha is a strange place. A place of unexpected encounters.

*****

Qatar is doing to the arts what it is doing to education.

The next day I tried to visit several museums which the country is bragging about online and through its advertisements. All were closed, except the Museum of Islamic Art, which used to be free to the public, but is now charging a $15 entry fee.

The monstrously fragmented state and its individuals are now investing billions of dollars, purchasing artworks from all over the world. Bragging about it. Manipulating content. As it is manipulating, what is being produced in its ‘international’ film studios.

Departing from Doha to Beirut on Qatar Airways, I realized that there was not one Qatari citizen working onboard. The pilots were from the UK and Australia, while the flight attendants were recruited in the Philippines, India and Africa.

A few minutes after take-off, an aggressive advertisement began promoting Educate a Child (EAC), which is a program of the Education Above All Foundation.

In Qatar, everything seems to be inter-connected. Deadly US military bases, ‘foreign policy’, the arts, and yes, even education and charity.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook, a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

America’s Education System: Teaching the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

Ask students to read for more than a couple of sentences and many will protest that they can’t do it. The most frequent complaint that teachers hear that it’s boring. It is not so much the content of the written material that is at issues here; it is the act of reading itself that is deemed to be boring. What we are facing here is not just time-honored teenage torpor, but the mismatch between a post-literate New Flesh that is too wired to concentrate and the confining concentrational logics of decaying disciplinary systems. To be bored means simply to be removed from the communicative sensation-stimulus matrix of texting, You Tube and fast food; to be denied, for a moment, the constant flow of sugary gratification on demand. Some students want Nietzsche in the same way they want a hamburger; the fail to grasp—and the logic of the consumer system encourages this misapprehension—the indigestibility, the difficulty is Nietzsche.

— Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, December 16, 2009

I am a substitute teacher (grades K-12) in a public school system located in Virginia, a state on the eastern seaboard of the United States. For many years prior to becoming a substitute teacher, I also taught at a private school in Virginia. Tuition and fees at the private school are approximately $42,000 (USD), the public schools are, of course, tuition free.

To be sure, there are highly motivated students in both educational settings that call into question Mark Fisher’s observation above. But in the main, both organizations struggle with figuring out if they are working with their subjects as students or as consumers of services provided by teachers and administrators.

From what I have observed in the tiny microcosm in which I’ve worked, adults have not figured out how to teach Generation Z. It is as if K-12 students are; well, lab rats, in a messy experiment that reflects adult confusion about how to facilitate learning in an era when all the “book learning” education seeks to impart is largely available on the World Wide Web (WWW). Reality hits video screens before adults can interpret it for their children; that is, assuming the adults are up to the task. Twitter, a modern day ticker-tape, dumbs down the American populace. Attention spans for students and adults are measured in 10 minute increments, if that.

Teachers are little more than circuits in America’s educational network and, as such, transmit surface information to the students and little more. The kids know a lot, for sure, but they, like the adults that school them and lead them, have no intellectual depth, something required for critical thinking. It is fitting, I suppose, that in these times when the United States is a polarized nation of cynics who believe in nothing, it’s not surprising that its educators teach the young to be cynics. But as Oscar Wilde noted through one of his characters, a cynic is “one who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.”

And yet the very adults (academics, corporate leaders, politicians) that created this cynical, digitized short attention span world whine about students not being able to read and write, think critically or master math. There is a reason for that: They are not being taught effectively to do those things. All of which reaffirms something I wrote in 2013: The American Education System is creating Ignorant Adults.

The leaders of Boeing and Lockheed Martin worry out loud about the absence of US school-aged students who can excel at science, technology, engineering and math disciplines (STEM). But they have no problem funding initiatives for Chinese students and aviation professionals in China.

Hocus Pocus

Back in the USA, school classrooms are a mishmash of technology, new wave/repackaged learning techniques and revisionist history. Apple I-Pads and Smart Boards are located in each classroom for student/teacher use. They are all connected to software that provides music, cartoons and learning platforms like Canvas for most grade levels. The latest teaching fads like Maker Learning with its “Digital Promise” backed by Google and Pixar, among others, competes with concepts like the Flipped Classroom, Blended Learning and other pedagogies that come in and out of vogue. And yet, along side all the technology are crayons, magic markers, pencils, paper and cardboard for writing and drawing.

It’s no stretch to say that I-Phones, Android and other hand-held devices may cause epigenetic changes. Students, teachers/coaches and administrators are constantly staring head down at their computing-communications devices. It is tough to get a face-to-face conversation going with most anyone in these groups as their eyes and heads are in the down position while sitting, walking or standing. Even if you are having a meat-space meeting, participants will incessantly dart their eyes to the handheld safely nearby the hand, in the hand, or on the lap (looking down again).

America’s past, woeful in many respects, is being revised again by adults to suit the agenda of those who seek to promote a narrative that seeks to change the political/cultural narrative of US society and its history, and it is aimed at young students in particular. The New York Times (NYT) 1619 Project is an example of this. According to the World Socialist Website, “The 1619 Project, launched by the Times in August, presents American history in a purely racial lens and blames all white people for the enslavement of 4 million black people as chattel property. “

The NYT has provided teaching materials that are being used by colleges, universities and high schools across the United States. Who is willing or capable of debating the claims of the New York Times; or should we say, who is willing to be labeled a racist for disagreeing with the revisionist authors of the 1619 Project? At the collegiate level, at least, there may be debate on the matter but at the high school level, what teacher is going to argue against using 1619 teaching materials. After all it is the New York Times.

What is very troubling about the NYT revisionism is that it makes the preposterous claim that racism is part of the DNA of all white people. The World Socialist Website claims that:

This is dangerous politics, and very bad history…[it] mixes anti-historical metaphors pertaining to biological determinism (that racism is printed in a “national DNA”) and to religious obscurantism (that slavery is the uniquely American “original sin”). But whether ordained by God or genetic code, racism by whites against blacks serves, for the 1619 Project, as history’s deus ex machina. There is no need to consider questions long placed at the center of historical inquiry: cause and effect, contingency and conflict, human agency and change over time. History is simply a morality tale written backwards from 2019.

Sharpen My Pencils, Fool!

I have often winced at some of the practices I observed in classrooms. On a typical day as a substitute, I arrive at a school, pick up instructions left by the teacher who is absent (or has a meeting), and head to the classroom. Substitute teachers, or Subs, are a lower class of species, members of the gig economy, and treated as such by the “real” teachers and students. I remember one teacher I subbed for was headed off to a meeting and as she left said, “Sharpen my pencils for me.” I dutifully did. A majority of the teachers and administrators don’t ask for your name, you’re just known as “The Sub.”

Once students complete their work (if they even choose to do it), which for most does not take much class time, they are free to play video games, stick ear buds in and listen to music or hang out with friends via the handheld device. One of the popular video games with male 6th to 12th graders is Krunker, a first person shooter game. Is US society really that concerned about active shooters in schools?

The State and corporations can be found in some form in the public school system. One elementary school has Lockheed Martin as a sponsor of a science program. In another elementary school, a class is learning about Virginia’s geography: The students print and video work product will ultimately be used by a tourism association in the State.

In both institutions learning is calibrated to the SAT, ACT and various Advanced Placement tests. Student test scores serve as one metric for teacher performance reviews along with standards set by school boards, the State, or independent audits in the private school case.

Students are not required to stand or even pay attention to the United States Pledge of Allegiance that is carried via intercom into the classrooms each morning. Some schools don’t even bother with it. Yet, during sporting events like American contact football, students/athletes and fans are required, or let’s say by the pressure of custom are compelled, to stand for the playing of the United States’ National Anthem. American flags are stitched into football jerseys and prior to games one football player is selected to run the American flag onto the field amidst the adrenaline fueled shouts and growls of fellow teammates following close behind. A color guard from a high school’s junior reserve officer training corps (JROTC) sometimes is present. They present in strict marching formation the American flag along with the flags of the US Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

To stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in a classroom takes one minute. To be upright for the National Anthem takes, perhaps, five minutes. The school band normally plays the latter and on occasion high school Madrigals will sing the National Anthem.

Yes, the militarization of US society and the deification of military personnel, even if they are accountants in uniform working at the Pentagon, is something to be concerned about. But saying the Pledge, and standing for the National Anthem, should be a requirement for students. There has to be some measure or display of loyalty to one’s country and the young must learn that. Still many want to wipe away any sense of citizenship, patriotism. Well, they are doing a fine job of that.

Mind the Inmates!

Students at both institutions are the beneficiaries of some serious force protection measures normally associated with protecting military personnel stationed at installations around the globe. The public schools in which I worked have armed police officers on site with a phalanx of civilian security/disciplinarians roaming the halls. Security cameras are everywhere indoors (hallways) and outside (entry and exit) recording movements. Public school buses are also outfitted with cameras and tracking systems.

The private school where I was once employed uses a less blunt force approach opting for a more subtle presence: security personnel are a bit less obvious and do not carry firearms. The school does employ a corporate style full-time director of security and safety with some serious emergency management credentials.

It is the same security scene at public and private schools across the United States which raises an interesting question: Are students really captive minds in minimum security enclosures subjected daily to social, emotional learning techniques or socialization/habilitation for entry into society? Or are they “free” learners allowed to be creative and explore beyond the confines of the pedagogy that seeks to “standardize” them.

No Student Untracked

There is a functioning big data brother at work tracking students as they make their way through K-12 known as the Common Core of Data (CCD). CCD is described by Marc Gardner in a presentation for the US National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) as “the annual collection of the universe of United States public elementary, secondary education agencies and schools. Data include enrollment by grade, race/ethnicity and sex, special education, english learners, school lunch programs, teachers, dropouts and completers.” The CCD also gathers information from state justice, health and labor departments. The NCES also collects data from private schools.

It doesn’t end there. Colleges and universities are tracking high school seniors as they begin their searches for schools they’d like to attend.  The Washington Post recently reported that many colleges and universities have hired data capture firms to track prospective students as they explore websites. “Records and interviews show that colleges are building vast repositories of data on prospective students — scanning test scores, zip codes, high school transcripts, academic interests, web browsing histories, ethnic backgrounds and household incomes…”

The owner of Canvas, referenced above, is Instructure. Their mission, according to their investor website is to “grow [the young] from the first day of school to the last day of work [retirement].” One of the capabilities that Instructure provides its clients is Canvas Folio Management. According to the investor webpage, it “delivers an institutional homepage and deep, real-time analytics on student engagement, skills and competencies, network connections, and interactions across various cohorts. Allows institutions to generate custom reports tied directly to student success initiatives and export accreditation-ready reports on learning outcomes at the student, cohort, course, program, or institutional level.”

Ah, yes, the thrill of being hunted for a life time by big data brother. Anyway, there is no escape.

Don’t try this in a Classroom

Learning is an active process, not simply a matter of banking information in a recipient passive mind. Teaching therefore has to be a transactional process rather than just the transmission of information. The transactional aspect is essential to enabling students to challenge their situations in life, which they must learn to do if they are to play their parts as active citizens of a better world…teaching must be approached as an intellectually disruptive and subversive activity if it is to instill inquiry skills in learners and encourage them to think for themselves rather than mindlessly accept received ideas. We believe it is more important in the digital age than ever before.

Ingenious: The Unintended Consequences of Human Innovation, Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson, Harvard, 2019.

• Author’s Note:  The article title is courtesy of Oscar Wilde. See inline link, paragraph 5 for more.

From Colombia to Galapagos to California and OSU

New information breakthroughs for me are exhilarating. Working with all that whale data is like looking into the dark with a flashlight. It’s work that is able to contribute new information to the field.

— OSU Whale Researcher, Daniel Palacios

Whaling’s first commercial iteration with harpoons started in Japan around 1570. With many more nations participating in killing whales for exploitation over the proceeding centuries – seeking oil, blubber, flesh, and other body parts – by the turn of the 20th Century, many of the 90 species of whales were on a steep decline, endangered or near extinction.

For one Oregon State University research faculty member of the Marine Mammal Institute, the cetacean is his passion, his life. Daniel Palacios was intellectually and spiritually connected to cetaceans after seeing the iconic humpback whale banners and picket signs deployed on Earth Day, while watching religiously the series, The Under Sea World of Jacques Cousteau, and through regaling in his own country’s mythological Amazon biosphere.

Image result for Daniel Palacios OSU"

Two-parts passion, one-part inspiration, and three-parts intellectual drive propelled him to where he is today – researching the pathways, habitats and health of earth’s largest animals.

The harpoon this 50-year-old scientist throws is outfitted with both a satellite tracking tag and small biopsy plug extractor to harvest not whale meat, but rather to collect valuable data on what whales do, what they eat, where they go, and for future research concerns, how well their overall physical health is.

Palacio’s been working with teams collecting the information on sperm, humpback, gray, blue and other whale species to determine their range and pelagic journeys throughout the Pacific coastal upwelling, all the way down to the Gulf of California.

“One of my drivers is discovery and knowledge, what you could say is strict hardcore science . . . pure analytical and statistically important science,” he tells me while we share coffee at a café in the Wilder community near OCCC.

Early Dreams Bring a Boy from South America to the Central Oregon Coast

His love and interest in science started young – five or six years of age while growing up in landlocked Bogotá. His parents (an engineer father and lawyer mother) bought him encyclopedias and books on animals. “I was continuously reading about African animals. I was mesmerized.”

He stresses living in an urban and cosmopolitan capital city was like being worlds away from his own country’s swath of Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon jungle would have been like Africa to me growing up in a big city. Our world was so disconnected from the natural world. We had no sense of the ocean or the Amazon.

Some 45 years later — traversing his early curiosity attending a Catholic school in a city of 7 million, to now, with all those titles and associations from OSU (“PhD/ Endowed Associate Professor in Whale Habitats/ Whale Telemetry Group/ Marine Mammal Institute and Dept. of Fisheries & Wildlife”) — Palacios has kept his eye on the proverbial prize of being a marine scientist.

He states his parents sacrificed to put him and his two sisters into the best schools they could afford. His grandparents came from humble beginnings in rural Colombia not far from Bogotá. He reminisces about this K-12 experience where he was taught math, physics, and liberation theology – a philosophy that measures helping the poor and understanding the plight of the underprivileged tied to capitalism’s great class divide as part of religious enlightenment.

This Calasanz school from the Escolapios Order bore the name of the Spanish founder who went to Rome in the 1500s to teach the very privileged, and on his daily crossing back over the Tiber River after teaching these rich youth, saw the poverty and disadvantaged circumstance of the masses.

In Bogotá, they would send us to a sister school for the poor and we’d help teach the kids. Even though it was a religious school, going to college my first two years was a walk in the park. We were really well prepared by the priests.

Meeting of the Whale Minds

Currently, Daniel spends most of his time analyzing all the data from satellite tags and biopsies. He likes the vigorous, meticulous nature of this work, even though 90 percent of his time is not working with whales directly in their habitat.

Image result for Daniel Palacios OSU"

I first met Daniel at the American Cetacean Society monthly meeting in Newport. It was his 15 minutes of fame with his Power Point in front of a packed room at the public library. “This is actually the second time I have presented to the ACS. Something like 17 years ago, in Monterey.”

Monterrey was his home for more than a decade, and his boss was NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) as he was tasked to answer why these humpbacks are in abundance in this upwelling ecosystem of Northern California, and to determine their migratory patterns and territorial range.

My dream was to work with these people studying this classic upwelling ecosystem.

As he shows slides and wonderful images of humpbacks to us naturalists who are interested in science, yes, and informed but not steeped in hard science, he states he understands the allure of the charismatic whale.

“All these people who have a strong affinity to whales are genuinely interested in their plight which makes funding the OSU foundation and Endowment easier.” It turns out one of Palacios’ mentors, OSU’s Bruce Mate, was a forerunner in getting the general public to support their work. That donor base serves as a buffer facilitating Palacios and others to continue their work collecting and analyzing so much data from satellite tags.

He later tells me that while he has authored all these professional journal articles (75) in periodicals such as Marine Mammal Science (through the Society of Marine Mammalogy), he realizes few read these rarefied articles; whereas, the real passion and interest in his field rests with whale watchers, naturalists, eco-tourists and writers.

Palacios counts his lucky stars and serendipity in his life: “I am at a place beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve received so much support, and where I’ve gotten to is due to the generosity of many people.”

If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.

-– David Suzuki, Canadian scientist and documentary producer

The price of ecosystems and individual species is difficult to access, and for most ecologists, no amount of monetary exchange can replace, say, a Military Macaw parrot or whale shark. However, we ecologists do call a forest or wetlands an “ecosystem” that provides invaluable services to the entire life web, to include humans.

A healthy coastal ecosystem with vibrant forests, clear streams and non-diked wetlands provide humans billions of dollars of “free life-giving/saving services” – clean air and water, healthy soils, pure estuaries, unmolested bays, erosion prevention.

There’s even a formula of sorts to put a price to a whale.

“Anyone know how much a whale is worth?” Palacios asks the ACS crowd tongue-in-cheek. There are a few bids from the crowd of a few thousand here, eighty thousand there for the going rate of a humpback whale.

According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) one whale’s biological value is two million dollars over its lifetime.

Daniel rattles off the capitalist values – “Considering the whale watching and tourism industry and the fact they are the biggest animals on earth they are amazing at combating climate change.” They consume carbon in the form of plankton and krill. Once their feces fall to the bottom of the ocean, it’s sequestered carbon that doesn’t make it into the atmosphere. When the whale dies, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Each is thousands and thousands of pounds, and both the whale poop and decaying bodies serve as nutrients for plankton and other myriad of marine life.

The Odyssey

During Daniel’s final year of college in Cartagena, he was hunting for a doctoral program in the USA – such as Scripps or Wood Hole. His life at a young age is a tale of serendipity.

He ended up in Panama, waiting for the Odyssey — a 93-foot scientific sailboat loaded with research equipment ready for heavy-hitters from around the world heading to the Galapagos. Daniel wanted to board that ship as a scientist-in-training. Big names in whale research like Roger Payne were scheduled to board the vessel.

They laughed when I asked if I could go with them to the Galapagos. ‘You just show up and expect us to take you with us?’ That’s what they told me.

However, after Odyssey’s trip from Key West to Panama, it was moored in a slip in order to receive parts and repairs. The young graduate was enlisted to help chip paint from the hull.

I had never been on a sailboat before, and this was an operation on an entirely different scale. I worked on the boat with the scientists-slash-crew for two weeks, and it was the day they were leaving when they told me I could come with them.

Their caveat was the science team would drop Daniel off in the Galapagos and he’d have to find his own way home.

This was a diverse crew, and while they motored to the Galapagos, they conducted oceanographic research.

They embraced me, and indicated I was a good crew member. But I had a secret weapon: I spoke Spanish.

The Odyssey was stopped and boarded by the Colombian Navy since they were sailing along known drug-smuggling routes. When the ship arrived at the islands, it turned out they had to obtain many permits to work in a highly-regulated marine reserve.

Every day the scientist-slash-interpreter “kid from Colombia” met with the officials in the National Parks office and Ecuadoran Navy to get the paperwork in order.

After a month delay, the Odyssey was on its way studying the sperm whales in this incredible ecosystem as well as tackling other oceanic matters. Daniel now was part of the crew; many of the premier scientists who had been scheduled to be on the Odyssey had to delay their scientific journeys.

Daniel learned how to construct a harpoon-staging platform as well as integrate hydrophone technology so the team could track sperm whales vis-a-vis their calls.

It was a 24/7 operation. Amazing minds, amazing ecosystems, and a real journeyman scientist’s apprenticeship propelled Palacios to seek more and more scientific pursuits.

It’s a Small-Small World in Marine Mammal Research Circles

That Odyssey adventure also parlayed into a job in Massachusetts with the non-profit Whale Conservation Institute. That was his first foray into the United States. He credits his mobility and lack of family responsibilities to his flexibility to move where the research was.

He did work in the mid-1990s with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla. That was part of a huge NOAA project on eastern Pacific dolphin recovery.

Scripps is the Harvard of marine sciences, with Woods Hole and Texas A & M a close second and third as the best rated schools in ocean studies. However, Daniel said he did not come from a well-off family, and Scripps expected all PhD students to have their own scholarships/grants and per diem sources to attend.

That Odyssey trip again paid off. Bruce Mate was the lead scientist Daniel worked with on sperm whale tagging, and he then contacted the Colombian to see if he wanted to get into OSU’s marine mammal program, ranked in the top five in the US.

The experience at OSU I believe was better for me than if I had gotten accepted to Scripps.

Leave it to magic of the Odyssey to continue on in another scientific expedition – five years around the world with a number of international scientists participating in some deep research. Daniel says that many of the leading marine mammal people had once been an Odyssey fellow or crew-slash-scientist.

Ironically, an Australian couple, Chris and Gen, were crew members and communications experts – writing stories and producing blogs and interview pieces. He said they have considered writing a book on the Odyssey’s odyssey.

I’m still meeting people in my field who had been on the Odyssey in some part of the world.

Diversity of Ecosystems, Diversity of Scientists

That PhD in oceanography came from OSU, but in 2003 he was called back to research whales at NOAA studying their presence in the upwelling ecosystem of North California. That was a 12-year sojourn.

Again, in 2013 Bruce Mate lured Daniel Palacios, PhD, back to OSU with a research professorship. The work involves advancing research in whale tracking and data analysis.

The grant he works under is through the auspices of the US Navy, which is conducting more training and development activities in whale territory. Federal legislation puts restrictions on some of the activities in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

As is the case in a Capitalistic society, there are many exceptions to “do no harm scientific principles,” when so-called national security issues are put ahead of everything else. “Biological acceptable limits” and monitoring are what guide the Navy’s contract with OSU and other colleges concerning whales being affected by military activities.

Sounds, bombs, boat and ship traffic, radar, and more do play roles in altering whale behavior, physiology and general habitat conditions.

Diverse ecosystems, diverse species in and diverse intrusions on their natural world are both intriguing and challenging to confront. On the personal front, Daniel and I delve into his own perplexing identities while growing up a male in machismo Colombia.

“I knew as a small child I was different,” he said, emphasizing that he was feeling like he was attracted to males around age five or so. He comes from a culture where being gay is the worst thing a man could be, bringing “huge shame and guilt to a gay.”

As is the case in many histories of homosexuals confronting that bigotry and bias against being queer, gays end up marrying as heterosexuals, even raising families with female wives. Daniel did meet a woman at OSU when he was a student, and she became his wife. Almost six years into the marriage, he came out to her.

She was (and still is) supportive, but she insisted on a divorce. That was 2004 when he came out, and the guilt of having ruined the life of someone he loved and all the other issues associated with living a closeted life required “a lot of therapy.”

Even though his parents are conservative and traditional, they’ve been very supportive, he says.

He expressed to me on several occasions how we all are evolving creatures, and that decision to live his life as a gay man means he can be authentic.

With that, we talked about the fact there were no role models in his field for gay scientists. In the lead up to a 2015 conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, he broached the idea of having a social mixer on the agenda for LGBTQA scientists.

I told one of the scientists who happened to be lesbian that the Society doesn’t provide any notion of being accepting of homosexuals in their field.

The networking mixer for queers was announced, and there were over 100 people who attended it – LGBTQA and allies.

When an aspiring marine mammal scientist doesn’t see people like him in the field, it’s hard to be fully realized, he states.

There is a deep spiritual need to see people like myself in my profession. My sexuality has zero relevance to the science I am conducting; nevertheless, how I identify myself definitely defines who I am. Those walls we build around ourselves when we are gay – the struggle and insight, too – when they begin to fall, there is a feeling of liberation, and becoming fully realized as a person.

We decided to do a bit of a question and answer interview to end this story of a Colombian whale expert who is now a US citizen working on protecting the enigmatic humpback (known as the songster whale) in our little corner of the world – Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Whale photo provided by Craig Hayslip

Interview

Paul Haeder: If you had to put down your philosophy of life in a sentence or two, what would it be?

Daniel Palacios:  As far as I approach things, I’m drawn toward excellence and beauty in nature. I find satisfaction in giving my best and in what I learn through the process of creating and discovering, especially if it fulfills my curiosity toward the natural world.

PH:  Science and the arts can’t be separated. I can give you a piece, “A Faustian Bargain,” by Gregory Petsko —  The quote is below, and the highlight is what I want you to riff with, sir!

‘Science unleavened by the human heart and the human spirit is sterile, cold, and self-absorbed. It’s also unimaginative: some of my best ideas as a scientist have come from thinking and reading about things that have, superficially, nothing to do with science. If I’m right that what it means to be human is going to be one of the central issues of our time, then universities that are best equipped to deal with it, in all its many facets, will be the most important institutions of higher learning in the future.’

DP: I wholeheartedly agree that science is best when considered in the context of the humanity that produced it, and the increasing capacity and demand by the general public to absorb science is evidence of that. I also agree that those universities that embrace this notion will play an important role in the future, but at the same time I’m concerned that there’s relatively few universities that are equipped for this, and also that those that are may not reach outside their walls unless they make very concerted efforts, such that these gains would mostly benefit a few people.

PH: What do you believe the biggest challenges in whale ecology and whale survivability will be in the next two decades, and explain.

DP: With the exception of a few whale species that remain critically endangered, most whale populations have been slowly recovering since commercial hunting stopped in 1986. Today the biggest challenges to whale conservation are largely the same ones that affect marine ecosystems as a whole: chemical and noise pollution, shipping, habitat degradation, and over-harvesting of marine resources for human consumption. These are much more pervasive and complex problems, and addressing them requires the engagement and participation of all segments of society.

PH: How can your work, and Bruce Mate’s and others’ help “manage” the multiple jurisdictions with so many competing Exclusive Economic Zones and national agencies and economic drivers in the mix?

DP: Whale migrations truly exemplify the requirements of marine fauna for vast expanses of habitat, often covering an entire ocean basin. Although some countries have made good progress in protecting these species in their national waters, once they cross into another jurisdiction or into international waters those protections no longer apply. Therefore, there’s a need for developing policy at the highest levels to achieve adequate conservation across jurisdictions. These policies are best developed through regional, international, and intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations’ Convention on Migratory Species, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or the International Whaling Commission, among others. There are several such initiatives currently underway — one example being the ‘Migratory Connectivity of the Ocean’ project, and we are engaged with them by providing tracking data and results for informing these processes.

PH: Give me the typical funder and donor elevator speech on the value and importance of funding marine mammal research, specifically, on whales.

DP: We start from the basis that, owing to their majestic beauty, whales have always captured the human imagination like few other species. But for us scientists, whales have a number of unique biological adaptations and behaviors that we’re just starting to understand. Through the use of cutting-edge technology we’re making fascinating scientific discoveries about them, which benefit all of humanity. And this information often contributes to efforts to improve their protection as well. For example, using satellite tracking we can follow them on their long migrations and determine where they go, how they get there, and what risks they may encounter along the way. Management agencies require this information in order to assess the status of the species and to enact spatially explicit conservation measures.

PH: What advice would you give a young aspiring marine scientist, say, from Colombia or another Latin American country with even fewer options in their respective countries to pursue the work you are now doing? What do you recommend their pathway, both intellectually and practically, be?

DP: Believe in your dreams, keep an open mind, and have a steely determination and things will start turning around — not always exactly in the way you envisioned, but opportunities will present themselves. These days access to knowledge is no longer a limitation thanks to the internet, but dedicated academic study and networking are still critical requirements to succeed and become an established scientist. Joining and being active in a professional society is helpful, especially for making connections with colleagues as well as for benefiting from mentoring and other programs intended for young scientists as well as those from developing nations.

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Winding Brook Stories: Communicator-Recruiter Justas


Justas picked me up at the train station. We rode in an elder Tvind car to the campus where I would live for eight days preparing for this series. I hoped this would be a positive story for me—being with people who actually embody the vision of liberation, and fight with the oppressed, jointly struggling to empower their lives. This would be a rarity for me as nearly all my writings reflect the evils and profiteering humans inflict upon one another and the planet.

Justinas Volungevicius (Justas for short and as play on words indicating that justice is sought) came to Tvind when 16. After six years of going through two educations, he is now a Tvind administrative-communication worker. As such, he does media and recruiting work for the various schooling processes. When The Necessary Teacher Training College class of 2017 (DNS 17) started, Justas assisted as a media aid advisor.

There were some criticisms about a few aspects of the program presented. Some thought that parts were outdated. They also wanted to improve residential conditions, and the garden. This resulted in a name change of the residential building where they live and where I would stay:  “Radical October 17”.

Justas explains:

Radical October came about because of DNS teams expressing the need and the wish to be part of making the school better. DNS17 stepped in the middle of this process. It was not a rebellion against an ‘establishment’ rather that students and teachers discuss how to improve the school. Everyone got involved out of a longing to be part of making the place and the schooling better, learning in the process what it actually takes to run the school together.

When I discuss enrollment with potential students, I ask: ‘Are you ready to face challenges? Because our program is by far from perfect. But if you choose to take ownership and responsibility of what we have and are part of creating what is missing or not good enough, I guarantee you will learn a lot.

They brought their critical ideas to the school’s weekly meeting with two teachers (also from Lithuania), and the headmaster Annica Mårtinsson. Born in Sweden, she came to Tvind a quarter-century ago to take its schooling and join the Teachers Group (TG). The staff agreed to implement the students’ ideas even though this would set back the three-year schedule by one month. The work was done in October and thereby the new name for the building.

Justas recorded some of this work for the DNS website.

DNS17 students had invited me to follow their study period this week, and to offer a half-day’s “course” on Cuba’s revolution and US subversion. These eight students come from half-a-dozen lands: three from Italy, two Portuguese, two Lithuanians, and one from Hungary.

I could tell that the building had recently been renovated, and it is kept clean. The rooms are usually for two students. I was offered a room to myself. There is enough space for two single beds, writing desk and chair, closet, and some bookshelves. Heat comes through a radiator furnished by wood cut from their forest and from wind.

Before Justas and I had discussion time, another young member of TG, also from Lithuania, Nadezda Jevdokimova, was my guide for the day. We went through the campus six schools and the residential areas, workshops and maintenance—30 buildings in all.

The school community currently have around 100 students-boarders, and 30-40 teachers, teacher assistants, administrative and maintenance workers. Each of their schools has its own leadership, board of directors, financing and book accounting. Now there are four DNS classes (with start dates 2016-19), the PTG youth school (Practical-Theoretical Basic Education), a Day School for especially needy youth in which they get some education and are boarded, and three “villas” where 15 adults can be cared for. At PTG and the Day School, a special program is designed for each student, and another criterion is made for adults at the “villas”. Every student is offered a computer. Each school has its own library. Tvind has its own printing press for posters, placards, brochures. Their hardcover glossy text and culture books are printed elsewhere.

All who are able physically and/or mentally to travel out of Denmark for one to three week annual trips can do so in groups with teachers. This is paid for with government funding. Municipality payment for students and adults needing special care helps finance the studies of DNS and other well-functioning students through their wages as many work as assistants with the boarders.

Gateway to the campus designed by architect Jan Utzon. 

Nadezda introduced me to “The President”, 51 year-old man, who has been at a Tvind Villa home for 16 years. He suffers from serious deterioration. His nickname comes from the fact that he was well educated, is intelligent and a feisty talker. He had been a soccer coach at schools. Since the villas are not at full capacity now, he has a whole building by himself. “I prefer living that way, alone. There is always togetherness if you want it, and that is fine. If I want that, I can always find it here,” he tells me with a twinkle.

Several school-boarding residences have their own ecological vegetable garden, small park and art works. While each residential group lives separately, most of them eat together especially at lunchtime. Everyone is permitted to deliver a short message at lunch time by tapping a glass.

Smoking areas are apart from the buildings. The main one is at the edge of the forest. Half of the 13 hectares is in pine trees they planted. Workshops, maintenance hall, and climate center with windmill museum contain the tools, equipment and vehicles necessary for near self-sufficiency. Tvind even has its own sewage purification plant.

Several buildings have posters or placards showing a common vision:

“Alone the world changes you; together we change the world.” “Don’t talk about the change, be the change”.

Tvind maintenance worker with special student helper in the seat hope to use parts from this old tractor for another tractor before having to buy a new one (Ron Ridenour photo)

Tvind has several annual arrangements. Around 5000 outsiders participate at events and/or visit the grounds on their own.

Winter Concert, January 26. Involves professional classical musicians, dancers and singers from all over the word performing unique compositions on Tvind’s international stage.
In winter sometimes many students take ski trips to Norway.

Earth Day, April 22, includes activities to protect mother earth.

Peace and Justice Conference, May 10-13.

Summer Camp, July, for youth with limited means to get away for the summer. Some summers there are theater performances by students and teachers.

DNS Boot Camp, July, this is 16 year-olds and up—an international event for another kind of education enthusiasts for a week of learning, connecting, action and cultural exchange.

Hot Air Balloon National Competition August 7-10. Tvind’s students have often won the national competition. They also travel to compete in other European national competitions.

“Tvind OL”, September 13-14. Students from 30+schools and care homes where TG has a presence gather for two days to compete in 60 sport disciplines: table tennis, soccer, volleyball, archery, cycling, fishing, dancing, climbing, chess, darts, athletics…

Justas Story

I got to know about PTG from my brother, who was a DNS student. He had seen a small ad in a Lithuanian newspaper about Tvind’s schools. He took the education and then taught DNS for five years before moving back to Lithuania.

I wished to be part of a social environment, and learn some life skills. I was quite a lonely child, and quite well cared for living with my mum in Lithuania. I became good at sailing, even made a national team, but I was stuck at computer games too much, and too isolated.

At the PTG boarding and day school for three years, I helped others in the more ‘needy’ category. I didn’t have to pay, rather I had responsibilities in the school which covered my costs. I took care of the sports hall, tidied up Day School after classes, for example.

I joined TG in 2013, because at that point my brother was in it. I was very impressed with the Teachers Group. Especially after having the privilege to travel the world: to Africa for a four-month bus trip. Also to Palestine, Sri Lanka, Russia. This center and college changed my life greatly. My worldview opened. I saw TG as a good way to grow as a person and be part of something that has a positive impact.

After PTG, I started DNS in 2014 and graduated in 2017.

The Necessary Teacher Training College

DNS is structured in three annual periods. The mix is half time working while learning, and half study. Year one, Global reality”: two months preparing for the four-month bus trip through western Africa. The aim is to get to know the people and to assist in projects underway. Then three months bringing what one learns to the European public. Then three months “saving up” for tuition by doing some pedagogical or other work.

Year two, European reality: six months with one’s class moving into a flat in some European city to explore ordinary people and to get jobs. Students participate in the local community and organize cultural-political events. This is followed by three months of study back at school, and then three more months in Europe doing what is “most appropriate”.

Year three, School reality: eight months of full time teaching practice in schools with care homes and or students with special needs. Student-workers are supervised by graduated teachers. One learns pedagogy, didactics and epistemology. Followed by four month study period back at DNS school. At the end, one takes the bachelor monograph exam.

A DNS slogan states: “2 teach is 2 touch lives—forever.” Special for DNS (and DRH) schooling, as the TG calls their education, is the Doctrine of Modern Methods (DMM). It has three categories: studies, courses, experiences. DMM is a digitally based system. A computer is provided each student connected to the school’s digital library containing 18 subjects each with scores of tasks.

One example of subjects is “Big Issues of our Time”. It has 50 study tasks, some for the collective and some each student can pick for himself. Some anchor themes: “We need a future that is bright, green and free”, “a new model of sustainable prosperity”; “We must decide which type of capitalism or no capitalism”; “defy and defeat capitalist globalization”; “doubt superpower politics and its constant wars”; “Lousy dictators must be substituted with non-violent revolution.”

Those are not topics and points of view found in other forms of schools.

During the studies period, which is primarily individual, the student reads on one task for hours or days, not only what is in the digital library but also suggested books. He/she writes a synopsis and sends it to the teacher. There are usually two teachers for a team of from five to fifteen student-teachers. The teacher corrects the task and makes comments. Teachers act as assistants and advisers to students. Both live at the same facilities and are engaged in every aspect of the school, including cleaning and gardening. Daily pace is quick and constant. One is exhausted at the end of the day.

Study time takes up 50% of the program. Then there is the course period, which teachers or outside experts speak on a topic, and engages all in discussions. That takes up a quarter of the program. The remainder is experiences planned and performed by the team, and others by the individual.

The school is governed by the weekly common meeting. Anything related to schooling and living conditions, complaints included, are discussed and decided upon. Adjustments can be and are made.

Back to Justas

There is so much individualism in the West; so much alienation. We must have a better purpose for living than our own careers and money. In Africa, I did investigations into agriculture and migration. We saw the poorest and richest, even hitchhiked with one very rich plantation owner. I learned that human societies are messed up, and this made me realize I needed to be part of making an impact. Africa, and the DNS schooling, gave me a broad understanding and a sense of belonging that nourishes activism.

I didn’t take this journey on my own. Other people help to guide me, to challenge me. Therefore, I believe travelling alone is not enough. To learn, we need people. Have you ever heard the saying ‘1+1 is more than 2’? Maybe it does not fit in math, but I believe this is true when we think of humans – we can do more when we stick together. We can complement each other’s weaknesses. We can motivate and challenge one another. We need to meet the people on our planet, to work with them, to learn from them and to use our collective knowledge to make life better for all. That is my life goal, and I believe that we can achieve this through education – Another Kind of Education.

This education has given me a lot of insight into the reality of people in the world, but also a strong feeling of injustice. I learned that there is a lot of inequality in the world, I found out that too few do something about it, and I decided that I want to be part of changing that. I wanted to be a teacher who fights for justice together with the people. A teacher who is not limited by the four walls of a classroom. The world is our classroom.

What makes me feel attached to DNS is that students and teachers together shape the school, and create something bigger than ourselves. One quote that stayed with me throughout the DNS program is: ‘You do not join DNS as it is, you join DNS as it is going to be.’

My role in the school is the daily running, and recruiting students for the program. DNS is a unique model for future schools. I wish to spread the idea that it is possible to run another kind of school, and we are doing it here. It makes me happy to hear people getting inspired, learning about our way of learning, or if they choose, join us on this journey.

When Justas returned to Tvind from Africa, and then set out to bring Africa to the West, he participated in protesting coal mining in Germany. His six years of schooling at the College Community encompassed a lifelong education in itself.

Author’s Observations

Most of the students and teachers eat breakfasts held in smaller kitchens and dining rooms where their schools and boarding residences are. At DNS, breakfasts are always lively with talk, body movements, facial gestures, hugs, and maybe soft music.

Marian often comes by for a fruit breakfast. He was born in Rumania but ended up in Germany for most of his youth before coming here to PTG at age 15. German social workers sent him to several of their special school but he was an uncontrollable rebel, so much so that one employee convinced the municipality to pay for his transportation and care at Tvind. Marion is now 30, a well-functioning paid maintenance worker living in a small rented house nearby, in Ulfborg.

Annie Woods initiated a FridayForFuture demonstration in the nearby town, Holsetebro. Around 50 Tvind students and teachers participated alongside a few locals. They were inspired by the Swedish teenager Greta and by their own Peace and Justice Conference last May (Photo by Jenny Jagodics)

At the common cafeteria, meals are simply marvelous. Something for every taste and particular diet: meat-eaters, vegies, gluten-free specimens. Many meals are prepared without meat, sometimes with fish, sometimes only vegetables and fruits. Annie Woods is the kitchen coordinator during her first year at Tvind’s “saving up” period. While waiting to start school with DNS19, Annie plans the meals. This is a day’s lunch and dinner menu: broccoli cream soup, eggplant bites, vegetable pie, baked potato, caramelized carrots, salad. Dinner with spinach lasagna, tomato-soya lasagna, beef lasagna, steamed vegetables and salad. Liquid is always water with lemon option, various milk products and juice.

It seems to me that the resident-students, in good health or otherwise, are well integrated. Most get along well with one another as far as I can tell, and there are arguments. Everyone in the regular school programs are constantly engaged. The overall DNS teacher council of seven educated teachers and two in training meet weekly, as do all the other schools’ teachers’ councils.

Piotr Dzialak is a young TGer from Poland. An avid reader, Piotr takes care of several administrative-coordinating matters and books. He tells me, “While we do concentrate on the collective rather than the individual, no one is left alone when in need, and all who need special attention for learning get it. We have long been accused of authoritarianism but the years I have been here, I see that we express what we wish including disagreements. Our process grows, transforms.”—revolution must be permanent say sages.

“The world is our classroom.”

Winding Brook: Preface

This series of teacher-student stories, interspersed with journalistic materials and writing, is aimed  at showing how thousands of mainly white Europeans and Americans from both continents together with millions of Africans and peoples from India struggle to eradicate, or greatly reduce, poverty by “fighting with the poor”. They do so out of “solidarity humanism” by using a unique and radical schooling—“another kind of school: learning by doing”—and through concrete development projects for sustainable agriculture and environment; community development; and improving the health of people by preventing-treating HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.

What is unusual and noteworthy about these radicals, in contrast to most Western radical-revolutionary-communist groups and political parties, is that they have survived, are even growing and making progress, and doing so despite much political opposition, including by media not only in Denmark but also in the US and elsewhere.

On July 1, 1970, a team of ten young teachers and 40 students started the DRH (Danish letters for The Traveling Folk High School). Under the leadership then of Mogens Amdi Petersen, they hired the Rantzausminde Efterskole (literally “afterschool”, the equivalent of the 10th grade) on the Danish island of Fyn. They renovated five buses to travel back and forth to India (Nepal)—a seven month hands-on, practical-theoretical educational-solidarity trip.

Students studied the background and history of the countries they were to visit. Once returning they traveled Denmark to learn its reality and bring to Danes what they had learned in India. Later on, they elaborated their studies so graduates of 9/10 to 24-month DRH studies could become Development Instructors (DI). Since then they have brought their knowledge and practical solidarity to people in many countries. Today, the curriculum includes learning English well, at least some Danish, global affairs, political science, international and economic development.

Many of these educational pioneers started the “Teachers Group” (TG). They took ideas from several radical and revolutionary groups seeking an end to capitalism’s greedy economic system, an end to its exploitation and oppression of workers and others, an end to their wars for profit. They supported liberation struggles against colonialism, especially in Africa.

Teachers Group made a life style commitment as a family of teacher-revolutionary comrades that includes living with a common economy, common time and common distribution. All earnings are shared. Each individual takes a like sum for personal expenses, which varies depending upon needs, and the larger portion pays the common bills, and helps finance agreed-upon projects to advance their ideas. Even rarer for radicals was/is their firm commitment from the get-go not to imbibe alcohol or any drugs, including marijuana, neither on the premises nor during their educational travels, and that means all teachers and all students. They learned that alcohol and drugs impair people’s abilities to work smoothly together, and get in the way of effective work habits.

When accepted as part of TG, one decides to hold together through thick and thin. The minimum commitment asked for is five years. Many make a decision for life. If a member decides to leave, so be it, although in the early days there was substantial pressure to fulfill the time commitment made.

TG’s first mentor was the revolutionary Ukrainian pedagogue Anton Makarenko. Makarenko, together with colleagues, ran a farm-school for difficult children, rebels without a cause. The teachers managed to turn most of the juveniles away from a destructive trajectory by combining hard work and disciplined education. Gradually the youth participated productively. The fields were cultivated for self-sufficiency, and craftsmen were hired to train the youth to build workshops. Makarenko often read aloud to the youth.  He later wrote several books. “The Road to Life” is best known. He argued that humans are both natural and cultural beings, and that we can transcend our nature by consciously taking decisions and actions on moral and social-philosophical issues.

The Teachers Group soon moved to an empty hotel on another island, Fanø, and DRH was expanded. Three teams were sent off in 1972, and four teams each year thereafter. In their view, traveling is an education in itself, even an art that “takes your mind and soul to new heights, it confounds you in the process, and it lets you contemplate life and how people live it.”

In August 1972, TG bought a country house with 13 hectares of land (half in pine trees) near a little rural town, Ulfborg, in west Jutland. The farm garden was called Tvind (Its history comes later).

TG members developed a new four-year educational program (sometimes three years), DNS (Danish letters for The Necessary Teacher Training College). They called this education “necessary” in order to adequately meet the “times are a changing”—bringing more relevant knowledge to youth, help mobilize them to meet the new demands and challenges:  reduce inequality and poverty, eliminate racism and wars. Not only a political statement then but also now.

In September, the first seminar started to educate students to be primary school teachers (later on to become teachers for secondary classes and beyond). At first, the Ministry of Education approved DNS as a pilot scheme in which 80 students were to complete the seminar, in 1972-76. The first teachers were DRH “veterans”.

Denmark has a uniquely liberal law that grants state economic support to what is called, “high schools”—privately run free schools, which individuals, groups or organizations can create by meeting minimal rules. These schools are for students who have finished the required nine years of government “folk” schools. This concept began in 1844 as an alternative to traditional government schools. Its founder, N.F.S. Grundtvig, was a theologian-philosopher, poet-politician, who also influenced the first constitution enacted in 1848.

Teachers Group developed other educational programs for many types of students, including those with “special needs”. At the Tvind campus today, one of them is PTG (Practical-Theoretical Basic Education), which is a boarding school for especially “difficult” youth mixed with well-functioning youth. PTG employs educated teacher-caretakers, plus DNS student assistants, who also get help from the well-functioning youth. Municipalities send special needy youth to this boarding school.

In addition, there is a Day School for children who otherwise would be in the regular primary-secondary classes but who need special attention. Sometimes there is one or two teachers and teacher assistants per pupil. Many of the children have been abused or abandoned by parents or by inadequate foster parents. Here they learn what they otherwise would in “folk schools” plus a bit of Teachers Group’s solidarity views on humanity.

Tvind also has a special “residential offer” for adults with social-physical-psychological difficulties. These programs include specially designed care and curriculum for each individual.

At the root of Teachers Group education is teaching that solidarity and peace are essential for all human beings. It is no wonder then that The Establishment soon characterized the TG as subversives who must be stopped. There have been many criticisms of their methods (to be presented further on) even a law prohibiting any state funding, which the Danish Supreme Court overturned; and a court case claiming that its original leaders had embezzled money from some projects and placed funds in others, and had evaded paying taxes. All but one of those charged were found not guilty. The government later appealed the court’s decision after the absolved defendants returned to where they were living, most of them in Zimbabwe.

Despite the fact that the government does not support the DNS and DRH more politically oriented schooling, and propagandizes against the Teachers Group, between 30 and 50 municipalities (around half the nation) send “clients”, “patients” to these other schools simply because Tvind (and sister school Lindersvold) have become good at these specialties.

TG did not organize a political party nor embrace a particular ideology with leading figures—not Marx-Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Hoxha, Tito, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Fidel or Che. Albeit, TG’s DRH and DNS educational programs do incorporate some Marxist teachings within contemporary contexts, and they do advocate an economy based on cooperation and equality.

Some revolutionaries criticize TG, and organizations where they work, for seeking government aid to help finance projects that they wish to support, and they raise funds from corporate foundations and NGOs to which some leftists snub their noses. (More on this later on.)

What no one can condemn them for, not even The Establishment and its mass media, is Tvindkraft (Tvind Power). Built between 1975-8, the wind turbine is 54 meters tall with a 54 meter wingspread, at the time the world’s largest. Four hundred people began the construction. Through the years several thousands participated, and around 100,000 people visited Tvind to watch the process. When the mill was completed, it had only cost the equivalent of $1 million in today’s value—paid for out of Tvind teachers’ salaries. It still operates today and provides all Tvind’s electric needs.

The Teacher’s Group offered the designs and ideas to anyone, but the state didn’t want them because it was committed to going with nuclear energy. Nevertheless, the Danish people soon rejected this idea, in part because Tvind showed that windmill energy was possible, cheaper and much better for the environment. Tvindkraft is the basis for all of Denmark’s famous windmills. It took the largest windmill company, Vestas, 20 years to make a windmill as powerful as Tvindkraft. (US American political folk singer-writer David Rovics wrote a song about this.)

In 1977, TG started UFF-Humana (Development Aid People to People) to collect, sort and sell used clothing, in order to finance various projects. This was the beginning of what became the Humana People to People (HPP) organization. The first aid was given to Zimbabwean refugees in camps in Mozambique and the first development projects were established in Zimbabwe in 1980. Today, Humana People to People has 30 national associations working with around 8000 employees in 45 countries of Europe, the US, Latin America, Africa and India. There are around 1000 long-term sustainable development programs, which reach between eight and 14 million people yearly.

The Teacher’s Group has grown to 3000 members. There is no one leader rather a council of Teacher’s Groups at each facility where they work. Teachers Group practices the principle of not making decisions based on polls. Discussions take place until everyone agrees. This consensus ruling has sometimes resulted in long and conflict-ridden meetings until the most “articulate” and most enduring persons win. That phenomenon was typical of many left groups but is less so today.

In Denmark alone the schools that Tvind started have numbered in the scores. Today, Tvind school community is the only Danish school that teaches TG’s pearl program, DNS. An associate school, The Travelling Folk High School in rural Lindersvold, teaches two programs of 10 and 24 months. In nearly 50 years now, schools where members of TG teach have graduated around 1000 DNS teachers and 45,000 students in all, including those with special needs.

Traveling Folk High School courses are also offered at the One World Center in Michigan, at Dowagiac where the Pokagon band of the Potawtomi people are headquartered; One World Institute in Hornsjoe Norway; College for International Co-operation and Development in Patrington England; and Richmond Vale Academy in Eastern Caribbean (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

African DNS schools use the basic program that Tvind school community created, and adapted it to their own local/national needs. The traveling part of the education is limited to other parts of their own country or to an African neighbor.

I have read and skimmed through the two basic African DNS textbooks. The older one designed for three African countries is 400 pages, and the newer Mozambique One World University textbook is 680 pages. Much of the material is taken from Tvind’s newest Denmark edition (2011) of 480 pages. It is not just a matter of the amount of words, of course, but the curriculum, the worldview is comparable to all the schools.

Since 1993, Humana People to People has been at the forefront of educating African and Indian teachers, who commit themselves to work in public primary schools, sometimes that they help construct. More than 42,000 teachers have been educated in Mozambique, Angola, Malawi, Guinea Bissau, Zambia, D. R. Congo and India. The teacher training colleges have DNS programs spanning from one to three years, and all except those in India are boarding schools.

In 1998, One World University was started in Mozambique and now teaches DNS in all 12 provinces. This university is recognized, and partially financed by the government. OWU has graduated around 1000 teachers with a bachelor or masters degree. DNS schooling exists in 14 colleges in Angola with some 6000 teachers graduated. Malawi is launching six DNS colleges and has graduated around 2000 teachers. Guinea Bissau is constructing seven colleges with a goal of graduating 840 primary school teachers annually. Zambia is committed to building eight schools; one is now operating. Congo Democratic Republic has one DNS college with scores planned. There are DNS schools in 18 locations in three states of India.

I spent two weeks at Denmark Teacher Group-run DNS and DRH schools observing some classes, interviewing many people, assisting in the kitchen and garden, and then many weeks reading about what they do, their history, and what their critics say about them. My viewpoint is that these people are dedicated to changing the world where poverty and wars no longer exist. In so doing, they have made many good choices and some I would not. Readers who know my writings probably can say I am too idealistic. I hope that all readers can count on my non-neutral objectivity.

Charter School Advocates Demand That Everyone Fend for Themselves

Promoters of privately-operated charter schools that intensify segregation and siphon money from public schools idolize the law of the jungle where the “strongest survive.”

This backward view assumes that everyone is nothing more than a consumer and that education is mainly a commodity. Such a discredited outlook is a direct assault on the modern principle that education is a basic human right and that schools must be fully-funded, publicly controlled, high quality, integrated, and available to all for free in every community. No one should have to worry about which school to send their child to. Government must take up its social responsibility to provide the right to education with a guarantee in practice. There is no reason not to have a great school with many programs in every neighborhood in America.

The “free market” consumerist approach to education was recently on full display at the 2020 “School Choice Fair” in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina. Not surprisingly, the “Fair” overwhelmed and confused many parents trying to figure out how to “choose” the “best” school for their child.

Some direct quotes from a brief October 30, 2019 news report on the “School Choice Fair” reveal the absurdity of “school choice” consumerism:

“As options expand and competition intensifies, parents can find the scene a bit overwhelming.”

“It’s just confusing to navigate what happens with the lottery, trying to get them into a program … and if we don’t get them into a program where do we go from there?” said [parent] John Mielke of Huntersville.

“I think the hardest thing is making up your mind,” [parent] Niraj Bhatt said. “It’s like walking into a store and figuring out what you want to order.”

The “shopping mall” approach to education is inconsistent with the requirements of a complex society based on mass industrial production. The extended reproduction of society cannot be based on the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.” Telling parents that they need to go out there on their own, compete with others, and figure out how to get a “good” education for their kid is riddled with problems and not the way forward.

Unless parents have spent weeks investigating everything thoroughly, usually on their own, their children may end up in a “bad” school, which might then cause parents to feel anger or remorse.

In this context, parents naturally feel like there is no guarantee of getting their child into a high quality school. More importantly, parents and the public at large are being socialized to think that competition and consumerism in education are normal and healthy, and that a modern conception of education as a right guaranteed by government is somehow bizarre and something no one should expect or demand. In this way, people are being deprived of the outlook needed to advance their interests.

Charter School Advocates Are Hypocritical and Out-of-Touch

On Monday, October 21, 2019, democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren issued her plan for K-12 public education.

In it, she outlines her opposition to charter schools. A brief excerpt from a section of the plan titled, Combating the Privatization and Corruption of Our Public Schools, states:

To keep our traditional public school systems strong, we must resist efforts to divert public funds out of traditional public schools. Efforts to expand the footprint of charter schools, often without even ensuring that charters are subject to the same transparency requirements and safeguards as traditional public schools, strain the resources of school districts and leave students behind, primarily students of color. Further, inadequate funding and a growing education technology industry have opened the door to the privatization and corruption of our traditional public schools. More than half of the states allow public schools to be run by for-profit companies, and corporations are leveraging their market power and schools’ desire to keep pace with rapidly changing technology to extract profits at the expense of vulnerable students. 

Not surprisingly, this important statement generated great ire from supporters of privately-operated charter schools. For example, Amy Wilkins, senior vice president of advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, recently told The 74, a pro-charter school publication funded by neoliberals and privatizers, that Warren:

seems out of touch with just regular Americans who struggle to find good public schools for their kids. We need more good public school options for American families, not fewer. Only someone who is extremely out of touch … would call for limiting their public school choices.

Putting aside the fact that charter schools are not public schools, not transparent, often perform poorly, and routinely cherry-pick students, Wilkins, like so many other short-sighted supporters of privately-operated charter schools, fails to realize the hypocrisy of her own views and statements.

In cities across America, the expansion of charter schools has lowered the quality of education for all students and reduced choices for students, teachers, and parents. In New Orleans, Louisiana, for instance, all so-called “public” schools are now privately-operated charter schools, which means that a student that wants to attend a regular public school, a teacher who wants to teach in a regular public school, or a parent who wants to send their child to a regular public school cannot do so. They have no options. Choice is not real for them. Their only hope is to find a privately-operated charter school that chooses them and is less unstable than the one down the road.

Charter school promoters have seized billions of dollars in public funds while limiting choices for parents, teachers, and students in other cities as well. This is especially true in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Chicago. The situation has become so absurd that beleaguered parents increasingly find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Parents are increasingly confronted with two bad choices: either enroll in a privately-operated charter school that is segregated, deunionized, and riddled with other serious problems highlighted daily by many newspapers, or enroll in a public school that the neoliberal state that created privately-operated charter schools has spent years deliberately starving, demonizing, over-testing, punishing, and privatizing.

The test-starve-punish-privatize agenda of the rich has made things worse for education, society, the economy, and the national interest. It is a direct attack on the dignity and personality of society and its members.

As segregated and deunionized charter schools with high teacher turnover rates multiply, choices will diminish for parents, teachers, and students. Conditions will also worsen for charter schools as they too become victims of the  competition and “free market” that they blindly and recklessly promote.

Now is the time to speak out more broadly and vigorously against the privatization of education. Education cannot be treated as a commodity, choice, or consumer good. It cannot be left in the hands of privatizers, neoliberals, and billionaires. Many harmful ideas, policies, and arrangements are being vigorously promoted by the rich and their political and media representatives. Throughout society things are becoming worse, more divisive, and more intolerable for people.

The privatization, corporatization, and profiteering in our nation’s schools is unacceptable. Speaking out and resisting the neoliberal antisocial offensive is key to the well-being of all. No one can afford to be passive or silent. The right to education cannot be affirmed without confronting this destructive agenda directly. Through collective struggle victories can be secured. Together we can defeat the privatization agenda of the rich and forge a bright future for all.

Miserable Bankruptcy of Charter School Cheerleaders

Charter school promoters embraced irrationalism long ago. Their reckless antisocial agenda requires them to do so because what they are promoting has no legitimate basis; it is not consistent with modern requirements.

“Leaders” in the charter school sector have long spoken and acted like free market demagogues, desperate to treat every human responsibility as a commodity, and to make it seem like this is normal, healthy, and desirable.

While privately-operated-owned non-profit and for-profit charter schools have solved no problems over the past 28 years, they have transferred tens of billions of public dollars from the public purse to narrow private interests, causing great harm to education, society, the economy, and the national interest. Privately-operated-owned charter schools have deprived the people, economy, and society of immense wealth produced by workers, while also lowering the level of education.

Charter school advocates know that evidence, logic, and facts are not on their side. They know that they are in an endless uphill battle against those who defend public education and the public interest. They know that they have to work day and night to impose the self-serving claims of owners of capital on society and its institutions. They know that charter schools are a scam and that hundreds of charter schools close regularly and thousands perform poorly. Charter school supporters have even admitted for years that charter schools are not a panacea. But they will not relinquish their “legal right” to use charter schools to enrich themselves at the expense of young people. The drive to maximize profits with impunity is too coercive in the context of a continually failing economy. Charter school advocates will say any incoherent thing to preserve their ability to loot the public purse.

Education is a social responsibility, not a business, commodity, choice, privilege, consumer good, or opportunity for some entrepreneur to make money. Education is not for sale.

Education in a society based on mass industrial production must be public, large-scale, and consciously organized for the use and benefit of all, not set up and run as some law-of-the-jungle swindle. Chaos and anarchy in the education sector is a recipe for disaster, not stable and sustainable development.

Privatized, marketized, deregulated, segregated, deunionized, unaccountable, non-transparent charter schools constantly plagued by waste, fraud, corruption, frequent closures, poor performance on a broad scale, selective enrollment practices, inflated administrator pay, and high student and teacher turnover rates are not the way forward. They are not a meaningful alternative to public schools mandated to fail by the same neoliberal state that created privately-operated charter schools.

Unlike privately-operated-owned non-profit and for-profit charter schools, public schools offer far more services and programs, and accept and serve all students all the time. Public schools are also more accountable, transparent, pay teachers better, provide more security for them, and have lower teacher turnover rates than charter schools. It is also important to recall that charter schools choose parents and students, not the other way around. This is why many different students are continually absent or under-represented in charter schools. In Philadelphia, for example, about 30% of charter schools have no English Language Learners.1 Charter schools are notorious for intensifying segregation, not reducing it.

Charter school advocates are cynical and irresponsible. They do not care about education, students, and parents. Their business-centric outlook gives rise to a debased and counterfeit consciousness that blocks the renewal of education, democracy, and society. Charter school advocates have no conception of what it means that education is a social human responsibility that cannot be left to the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.”

People from all walks of life should remain vigilant about the aims, motives, and activities of privatizers, “free market” demagogues, charter school promoters, and their cheerleaders. These retrogressive forces are actively promoting harmful ideas, policies, and arrangements. They do not care about the damage they cause to society, education, the economy, and the national interest. Their antisocial goal is to make as much money as possible at the expense of everyone. Neoliberal disinformation about “choice,” “kids,” “innovation,” “parent power,” and “freedom” should be rejected and replaced by modern definitions that affirm human rights as the starting point for discussion, policies, and arrangements.

  1. Education Law Center, Safeguarding educational equity: Protecting Philadelphia students’ civil rights through charter oversight, February 2019.

To Think or To Work? That Is the Question

On both sides of the political aisle, workforce-training reforms are being touted as the be-all, end-all of America’s public education system. Right-wing “school choice” proponents, such as President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, push corporate charter school programs with workforce-training curriculums. Left-wing “community schooling” advocates, such as Democratic Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Julián Castro, push “lifelong-learning” programs with school-to-work curriculums. Both “conservatives” and “liberals” concur: the purpose of public education is workforce development.

It’s nice to know that, in this divisive era of Trump outrage, America’s political representatives can still reach across the aisle to agree on something. Too bad this bipartisan movement will reduce the US schooling system to a corporate-government bureaucracy that deploys Big Data to train students to fill labor quotas prescribed by workforce-planning algorithms.

Career-Aptitude Pigeonholes:

In this new age of rapidly advancing technologies that are automating “low-skill” jobs, many parents are understandably concerned that their children’s schooling will fail to prepare them to survive in a hi-tech future where the economy is driven by computers. However, parents should be skeptical of hyped-up “career pathways” curriculums that train students in hi-tech skills prescribed for job placement in the fields of “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” (STEM). While this polytechnical training might offer quick shortcuts to hi-tech jobs, such vocational tech-training pigeonholes the student into a predetermined job with limited upward mobility.

Such “cradle-to-career” training is based on three of the “six basic functions” of schooling systematized by Harvard Professor of Education, Alexander Inglis, who believed that public schools are instruments of Statecraft and social engineering. In “Against School,” Inglis’s authoritarian “principles of education” are paraphrased by the renowned New York State Teacher of the Year (1991), John Taylor Gatto:

  1. The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student’s proper social role. . . .
  2. The differentiating function. Once their social role has been “diagnosed,” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits—and not one step further. . . .
  3. The propaedeutic function. The social system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.

By pipelining students directly from the classroom to the job site, career-pathways curriculums diagnose each student’s social role by consigning him or her to a job caste that is directed by Big Business partnering with publicly funded school-to-work programs. Furthermore, to efficiently determine each student’s socioeconomic role, the cradle-to-career “conveyor belt” differentiates the student body into a hierarchy of managers and wage slaves who are trained with minimal job competences so that the chain of economic command is not destabilized by social ambitions.

Simply put, career-pathways do not teach students how to choose their own careers and social roles; rather, they teach students job-specific skills for limited employment openings which are predetermined by the market projections of the politically connected corporations that partner with government-funded schools.

Psychometric Learning Analytics for “Personalized” Job Training

Rather than applaud school-to-work curriculums that train students to keep up with the evolution of a hi-tech economy, perhaps school-boards should be disconcerted about the encroachment of the Big Tech economy on schools and learning. With growing popularity, Big Data is becoming an integral component of career-pathways training through “adaptive-learning” computers that literally reduce students to numbers. By data-mining a student’s responses to digital lessons, adaptive-learning software (such as Dreambox, Alta, and Brightspace Leap™) can tabulate student-learning algorithms which diagnose students as mentally “fit” or “unfit” for certain jobs. The result is a psychometrical “bell curve” system that pathologizes a student’s workforce “competences” based on his or her “cognitive-behavioral” algorithms.

Such data-mining of student psychometrics might be an efficient way to distribute job placement through workforce-schooling programs. Nonetheless, acclaimed education theorist Alfie Kohn documents that the psychological conditioning methods of schooling advocated by “economists and a diehard group of orthodox behaviorists (who have restyled themselves ‘behavior analysts’)” usually “backfire” and “undermine the very thing we’re trying to promote.” Indeed, workforce-schooling psychometrics are “undermined” when “personalized” student-learning profiles “backfire” by socially engineering the student body into a workforce caste hierarchy with limited job opportunities that restrict upward mobility.

A Post-Humanism?

If parents are worried that their children may get run over by the hi-speed, hi-tech automation economy on the horizons, their attempts to reform education so that students can “compete” with the new computerized economy may actually exacerbate the problem. Rather than encourage school-to-work curriculums that train students to “interface” with a techno-automated workforce, perhaps it is more important to teach the humanities of philosophy, history, and the arts so that the next generations can make humane decisions which ensure that technological evolution serves the inalienable rights of human dignity and conscience.

We are at a crossroads here: the “career pathways” to a technocratic economy, or the “classical way” to a moral economy based on the “categorical-imperative” values of human dignity and conscience. I am not saying that technological advancement cannot progress alongside the preservation of human values. But in a computer-automated economy driven by Big Data, algorithms must be programmed with certain values; and without the preservation of humane values in the minds of students, there will be nothing to ensure that human morality is programmed into the algorithms that plan the work forces of the future. If we amputate the arts and humanities from the “new education,” which worships the supposed infallibility of data, what will it profit our children to gain the world of hi-tech jobs only to lose their humanity?

DeVos Plan For More Pay-The-Rich Charter Schools

On October 10, 2019, U.S. Secretary of Education, billionaire Betsy DeVos, unveiled an antisocial plan to further incentivize the rich to establish more charter schools to line their pockets at the expense of young people. DeVos has actively promoted school privatization schemes for decades; she does not support public education.

In addition to many well-established ways that the rich already use charter schools to enrich themselves, millionaires and billionaires will now also be able to use privately-operated charter schools to receive large tax cuts. And over time these tax cuts get bigger.

Under the latest DeVos school privatization scheme, “investors” will be able to maximize their profits by using the “Qualified Opportunity Fund” (part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) to “invest” in charter schools in “economically distressed areas” known as “opportunity zones.” Specifically, this new “financing opportunity” can be used by the rich to avoid taxes on charter school facilities and real estate acquired through the “opportunity fund” and sold later. The government has already hired a private business, Leed Management Consulting, Inc., of Silver Spring, Maryland, to help owners of capital exploit this privatization scheme.

While such government-backed gold rushes are ostensibly designed to help poor and low-income families, especially minorities, they have a track record of doing the opposite.

One of the main tasks confronting the polity at this time is how to deprive the rich of their ability to repeatedly violate the public interest with impunity. Extensive research and experience confirm that there is no justification for the existence of charter schools, yet more charter schools keep popping up. How to stop this rapid privatization of public education is an urgent task that concerns everyone.

Privately-operated charter schools are wrecking public schools and harming the economy and the national interest. Recently, another report (School Choice in the United States: 2019) was issued, this time from the U.S. Department of Education, showing that privately-operated-owned charter schools, which have been around for more than 25 years, perform no better than public schools.

In addition, charter schools have long been plagued by endless scandal and corruption, high student and teacher turnover rates, inflated administrator pay, poor transparency, unelected school boards, and a reputation for rejecting many students—all while continually siphoning enormous sums of public money and public property from public schools.