Category Archives: Students

In the name of humanitarianism, Covid is crushing local as well as global solidarity

There seems to be a glaring illogic to official arguments about the need to vaccinate British children against Covid that no one in the corporate media wishes to highlight.

Days ago the British government’s experts on vaccinations, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, withstood strong political pressure and decided not to recommend vaccinating children aged between 12 and 15. That was because the JCVI concluded that vaccination could not be justified in the case of children on health grounds.

The implication was that the known health risks associated with vaccination for children – primarily from heart inflammation – outweighed the health benefits. The JCVI also indicated that there might be unknown, longer-term health risks too, given the lack of follow-up among young people and children who have already been vaccinated.

But while the JCVI defied the government, they did not entirely ignore the political demands of them. They offered the government’s four chief medical officers a get-out clause that could be exploited to rationalise the approval of child vaccinations: they conceded that vaccinations might offer other, non-health benefits.

Utilitarian arguments

Predictably, this utilitarian justification for child vaccinations has been seized on by the British government. Here is the Guardian uncritically regurgitating the official position:

There have also been concerns about the indirect effects of the virus on children. The biggest has been the disruption to schools, which had a severe impact on their mental and physical health, as well as their education.

That, essentially, is why the four CMOs have said children aged between 12 and 15 should be eligible for the jab.

They believe that being vaccinated will reduce the risk of disruption to school and extracurricular activities and the effect of this on their mental health and wellbeing.

Let’s unpack that argument.

Covid poses no serious threat to the overwhelming majority of children, the JCVI and the chief medical officers are agreed. (Those few children who are at risk can be vaccinated under existing rules.)

But, according to the government, Covid has inflicted physical, mental and educational suffering on children because classrooms had to be shut for prolonged periods to protect vulnerable adults in the period before the adult population could be vaccinated.

Now most adults, and almost all vulnerable adults, are vaccinated against Covid, offering them a significant degree of protection.

But still children need to be injected with a vaccine that may, on balance, do more harm to their health than good.

If this is the official argument, we should all be asking: Why?

Two scenarios

There are two potential scenarios for assessing this argument.

The first:

The vaccine works against transmission and severe illness in adults. Schools therefore no longer need to be shut down to protect the adult population. Adults are now largely safe – unless they have decided not to get vaccinated. And that, in turn, means that “indirect” harm to children’s mental and physical wellbeing caused by school closures should no longer be a consideration.

If this is the case, then there are no grounds – either health ones or indirect, non-health ones – to justify vaccinating children.

The second:

The vaccine doesn’t stop transmission and severe illness, but it reduces some transmission and mitigates the worst effects of Covid. This is what the evidence increasingly suggests.

If this is the case, then vaccinating children will not only fail to stop a proportion of them catching and transmitting Covid but it will also fail in its stated purpose: preventing the future closure of schools and the associated, indirect harms to children.

Worse, at the same time vaccination may increase children’s risk of damage to their health from the vaccine itself, as the JCVI’s original conclusion implies.

Just to be clear, as the “follow the science” crowd prepare yet again to be outraged, these are not my arguments. They are implicit in the official reasoning of the experts assessing whether to vaccinate children. They have been ignored on political grounds, because the government would prefer to look like it is actively getting us “back to normal”, and because it has chosen to put all its eggs in the easy (and profitable) vaccine basket.

If vaccines are all that is needed to solve the pandemic, then there is no need to look at other things, such as the gradual dismantling of the National Health Service by successive governments, very much including the current one; our over-consumption economies; nutrient-poor diets promoted by the farming and food industries; and much else besides.

Unadulterated racism

There are, in fact, much more obvious, unequivocal reasons to oppose vaccinating children – aside from the matter that vaccination subordinates children’s health to the adult population’s wellbeing on the flimsiest of pretexts.

First, vaccination doses wasted on British children could be put to far better use vaccinating vulnerable populations in the Global South. There are good self-interested reasons for us to back this position, especially given the fact that the fight is against a global pandemic in a modern world that is highly interconnected.

But more altruistic – and ethical – concerns should also be at the forefront of discussions too. Our lives aren’t more important than those of Africans or Asians. To think otherwise – to imagine that we deserve a third or fourth booster shot or need to vaccinate children to reduce the risk of Covid deaths in the west to near-zero – is pure, unadulterated racism.

And second, a growing body of medical reseach indicates that natural immunity confers stronger, longer-lasting protection against Covid.

Given that the virus poses little medical threat to children, the evidence so far suggests they would be better off catching Covid, as apparently half of them already have.

That is both because it serves their own interests by developing in them better immunity against future, nastier variants; and because it serves the interests of the adults around them – assuming (and admittedly it’s a big assumption) that the goal here is not to have adults dependent on endless booster shots to prevent waning immunity and enrich Pfizer.

Worst of both worlds

By contrast, the approach the British government is pursuing – and most of the corporate media is cheerleading – is the worst of both worlds.

British officials want to treat Covid as a continuing menace to public health, one that apparently can never be eradicated. A state of permanent emergency means the government can accrue to itself ever increasing powers, including for surveillance, on the pretext that we are in an endless war against the virus.

But at the same time the government’s implicit “zero tolerance” approach to Covid – in this case, a futile ambition to prevent any hospitalisations or deaths from the virus in the UK – means that the interests of British children, and populations in foreign countries we helped to impoverish through our colonial history, can be sacrificed for the good of adults in rich western countries.

The combined effect of these two approaches is to foster a political climate in which western governments and the corporate media are better placed to replicate the colonial policy priorities they have traditionally pursued abroad but this time apply them to the home front.

The supposed war against the virus – a war that children apparently must be recruited to fight on our behalf – rather neatly echoes the earlier, now discredited and unravelling “war on terror”.

Both can be presented as threats to our civilisation. Both require the state to redirect vast resources to corporate elites (the “defence” industries and now Big Pharma). Both have led to widespread fear among the populace, making it more compliant. Both require a permanent state of emergency and the sacrifice of our liberties. Both have been promoted in terms of a bogus humanitarianism. And neither war can be won.

Dog eat dog

Recognising these parallels is not the same as denial, though the government and media have every interest to cultivate this as an assumption. There were and are terrorists, even if the term readily gets mangled to serve political agendas. And there is a dangerous virus that vulnerable populations need protection from.

But just as the “terror” threat arose in response to – and to mask – our arrogant, colonial control over, and plundering of, other people’s resources, so this pandemic threat appears to have arisen, in large part, from our arrogant invasion of every last habitat on the planet, and our ever less healthy, consumption-driven lifestyles.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote an article that went viral called “A lesson coronavirus is about to teach the world“. In it, I argued that our capitalist societies, with their dog-eat-dog ideologies, were the least suited to deal with a health crisis that required solidarity, both local and global.

I noted that Donald Tump, then the US president, was trying to secure an early, exclusive deal for a “silver bullet” – a vaccine – whose first doses he planned to reserve for Americans as a vote-winner at home and then use as leverage over other states to reward those who complied with his, or possibly US, interests. The planet could be divided into friends and foes – those who received the vaccine and those who were denied it.

It was a typically Trumpian vanity project that he did not realise. But in many ways, it has come to pass in a different fashion and in ways that have the potential to be more dangerous than I could foresee.

Divide and rule

The vaccine has indeed been sold as a silver bullet, a panacea that lifts from our shoulders not just the burden of lockdowns and masks but the need for any reflection on what “normal life” means and whether we should want to return to it.

And just as Trump wanted to use vaccine distribution as a tool of divide-and-rule, the vaccination process itself has come to serve a similar end. With the quick roll-out of vaccines, our societies have almost immediately divided between those who demand vaccine passports and mandates as the price for inclusion and those who demand the protection of basic liberties and cultivation of social solidarity without conditions.

In popular discourse, of course, this is being spun as a fight between responsible vaxxers and irresponsible anti-vaxxers. That is more divide-and-rule nonsense. Those in favour of vaccination, and those who have been vaccinated, can be just as concerned about the direction we are heading in as the “anti-vaxxers”.

Fear has driven our division: between those who primarily fear the virus and those who primarily fear western elites whose authoritarian instincts are coming to the fore as they confront imminent economic and environmental crises they have no answers for.

Increasingly, where we stand on issues surrounding the pandemic has little to do with “the science” and relates chiefly to where each of us stands on that spectrum of fear.

Hoarding impulse

The vaccination of children highlights this most especially, which is why I have chosen to focus on it. We want children vaccinated not,, because the research suggests they need it or society benefits from it, but because knowing they are vaccinated will still our fear of the virus a little more.

Similarly, we want foreigners denied the vaccine – and that is the choice we make when we prioritise our children being vaccinated and demand booster shots for ourselves – because that too will allay our fears.

We hoard the vaccinations, just as we once did toilet paper. We try to fortify our borders against the virus, just as we do against “immigrants”, even though the rational part of our brain knows that the virus will lap up on our shores, in new variants, unless poorer nations are in a position to vaccinate their populations too.

Our fears, the politicians’ power complexes and the corporations’ profit motives combine to fuel this madness. And in the process we intensify the dog-eat-dog ideology we call western civilisation.

We turn on each other, we prioritise ourselves over the foreigner, we set parent against child, we pit the vaccinated against the unvaccinated – all in the name of a bogus humanitarianism and solidarity.

The post In the name of humanitarianism, Covid is crushing local as well as global solidarity first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Remember the HPV vaccine scandal of 2018? (Of course, you don’t)

Let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario. What if there was a time when the general population was being relentlessly coerced into taking a particular drug? How would you know what to do? Where would you turn for the necessary context? Surely you wouldn’t just take the shot without doing your homework… right? That would be irrational. And you wouldn’t ostracize others for being hesitant… right? That would be even more irrational. Logically, you’d look up a relatively recent, similar scenario to see what you can learn from it… right? Well, in case you wind up in such an ugly situation, I’m happy to share such relevant context in advance:

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. There are over 200 types of HPV and virtually everyone who has had sex will get it. HPV has no cure but it self-clears at least 98 percent of the time. In rare instances, it can cause cancer — particularly cervical cancer. However, such an outcome can be prevented through regular pap smears. Even with this proven method of prevention, a vaccine was developed anyway. Since cancers usually take years to develop, the vaccine’s effectiveness is unclear at best. As for safety, take a look at the photo up top… and I think this would be a good time to introduce Josh Mazer of Maryland.

Josh is not a radical and certainly not an “anti-vaxxer.” He wrote in a 2018 Capital Gazette article: “A properly administered, robust vaccine policy is instrumental in promoting the public welfare. I am concerned about the marketing strategies being used statewide to aggressively promote Merck’s HPV vaccine. In January, a career public school nurse approached me to discuss her role in promoting the vaccine. She said that was being ‘forced’ to market it to 11- and 12-year-old kids at her school. She produced a set of letters outlining the policy, one on Maryland Department of Health (DOH), the other on Montgomery County Schools, letterhead.”

Slide from HPV Symposium Ten Oaks, Maryland: March 2018

Mazer went to work and learned that every school superintendent in Maryland received the DOH letter. It included phrases like:

  • “There is a critical public health issue of under-vaccination Maryland’s adolescents against Human Papillomavirus (HPV)” 
  • “14 million people get infected each year posing a significant public health risk” 
  • “It is imperative for age-eligible children to complete the HPV vaccination series while obtaining school-entry required vaccinations”
  • “There are 13,248 females and 13,796 males in Montgomery County that are of eligible age, 11 to 12 years old”

Mazer was told that “the letters are supported by data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)” but the CDC denied any knowledge of the letters. Mazer filed a Public Information Act request with the Prevention and Health Promotion Administration and here is some of what he learned:

  • Maryland’s rates of cervical cancer were in decline for years prior to the introduction of the vaccine
  • The vaccine itself has never been proven to prevent cancer
  • The vaccine — if it worked — would only protect against only 9 (out of 200+) strains of HPV
  • Cervical cancer incidence in Maryland is up 8 percent since the vaccine policy was enacted
  • 44 percent of girls who get the shot are more likely to develop cervical lesions than those who do not

Finally, Mazer learned that the state health department received $91.6 million just since 2012 from pharmaceutical-funded non-profits to promote the HPV vaccine in Maryland. Take a second and go back to read that last sentence one more time: The state health department received $91.6 million just since 2012 from pharmaceutical-funded non-profits to promote the HPV vaccine in Maryland.

Big Pharma bribed Maryland officials to use an “anti-cancer” vaccine that INCREASES the chances of young girls getting cancer. Using “non-profits” to do the funding allowed for tax breaks and a semblance of distance. Related: A couple of the images I placed in this article are slides from a 2018 Maryland HPV Symposium. They show how physicians are financially rewarded for pushing the HPV “vaccine” on children. 

Slide from HPV Symposium Ten Oaks, Maryland: March 2018

Here is Mazer speaking at a Maryland school board meeting in late 2019 (3 minutes):

So, just a heads up: If you — by some unexpected fluke — find yourself being coerced into taking a vaccine, you might wanna ask a few questions before lining up for the jab. It seems major pharmaceutical corporations along with licensed physicians are capable of lying to you — even if it can damage your health. Who knew? Again, just keep it in mind. You’ll probably never have an injection imposed upon you in a Free Country™ you but hey, ya never know. 

The post Remember the HPV vaccine scandal of 2018? (Of course, you don’t) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Local Man Overcomes Illiteracy One Tutor at a Time

September 8 makes 54 Years of celebrating International Literacy Day

Benjamin Spock, M.D., Author of Baby & Child Care — An eloquent plea that Americans recognize the appalling frequency of illiteracy…a tragedy which handicaps–occupationally, politically, and emotionally–a third of the citizens of our rich, ‘advanced’ country. referencing, Illiterate America, Jonathan Kozol

Note: This is a pretty mellow piece below (parts 1 & 2), for the local, Newport News Times, where I have published. Here, an archive, of sorts, of some of my articles and op-eds.

+–+

In elementary school he was put in special ed because of learning and reading delays. The label followed him all the way through high school. He graduated from Toledo High School with an IEP Diploma.

He worked as a landscaper and janitor; he struggled to live on his own because he could not read.

However, he’s a survivor. For years, he’s been working at a mill operating a large Caterpillar. He’s wanted to learn how to read for more than two decades. At age 36 the proverbial light bulb went off on August 3, 2021.

Reading tutors who worked through Mid-Valley Literacy Center rendezvoused to assist this man’s reading. One of the tutors is my friend, and she reports her “student learner” is reading sometimes fluidly. She’s been at this since March, meeting him in Toledo once a week.

My friend hails from Chile, and has been a teacher locally, as well as a substitute in Lincoln County. She’s fluent in Spanish and English, and works as a professional translator. Maria, a library tech, and another tutor have been working with this young man for six months.

More than 43 million adults in the US cannot read, write or do basic math above a third grade level. That’s one stat, and professionals I work with – I’ve been an English and writing teacher for more than three and a half decades, in El Paso, Juarez, Mexico, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, other places – say the actual figure is much higher, around the 60  to 80 million mark.

In one diverse study, 80 percent of people trying to properly install an infant car seat failed one or more steps because of “an inability to follow directions written at a 6th grade level.”

Other stats point out if the US was to increase average reading grade levels to the 6th grade, an additional $2.2 million a year would be added the economy.

Maria’s student is looking to move into an area of the mill where reading instructions and understanding safety manuals are a must. Getting out of the seat of a bouncing, loud log loader will also help him strengthen his longevity at the job.

I have worked with this student. He lives on his own, does amazing engine work on his truck, and he eventually wants to get certification and open up his own car repair shop.

He tells me that he was picked on beginning in second grade, for his inability to sound out words and lack of skills to do “read alongs.”  This stigma is common in Lincoln County. Poverty, one-parent family dynamics, and other adverse childhood events (ACES) impact youth’s ability to learn at grade level.

Others are born with some form of developmental disability. We are seeing as a society more youth entering our primary schools with learning/intellectual disability – a phrase that stigmatizes people.

I’ve worked with adults as a supported employment professional in Seattle, Portland, Gladstone, Beaverton and Lincoln County; and assisted adults in advocating for themselves in order to land jobs and keep those jobs. Reading, writing and math sometimes are impediments, either individually, or collectively.

However, all those services Oregon has set up around supported employment and housing do give people a hand up. Maria’s student has had dozens of folk come into his life, informally, who started reading sessions, but all quickly moved on. Maria, 78, is dedicated to this gentleman.

She reports to me that “he is finally reading, sometimes pretty complex sentences. He has a big smile on his face now when we meet.”

Maria’s student is one of millions worldwide who should be valorized for succeeding. All our hats should be off for this local man: September 8 is International Literacy Day.  “Since 1967, International Literacy Day (ILD) celebrations have taken place annually around the world to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society. Despite progress made, literacy challenges persist with at least 773 million young people and adults lacking basic literacy skills today.”

+–The End–+

This is what guiding and assisting look like:

Linda Perez (L) and her guide Alvaro Herrera (R), Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 31, 2021.

[Linda Perez (L) and her guide Alvaro Herrera (R), Tokyo, Japan, August 31, 2021. | Photo: EFE]

My first story on this fellow, from illiterate in March to reading in August:

Literacy is a matter of life and death, happiness or penury

I used to get my elbows up into many literacy projects as an English and writing faculty member at community colleges, universities, prison school programs and writing/journalism workshops for people who are exploited because of their status as low income or as former felons, and those homeless citizens as well as adults living with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Events like “Banned Books Month” (October) or National Poetry Month (April) I worked hard to promote/support. Big journalism organizations like Project Censored and groups like Reporters without Borders are still in my blood.

I am now working again in a small rural community dotted with small towns. I am not only supporting folks with job development and on-the-job training and coaching, but I am helping two Lincoln County citizens with reading literacy.

In my situation with Shangri-La, these two are adult men in their 30s who are seeking reading literacy programs.

It may come as a surprise to citizens, lawmakers and politicians alike, but Lincoln County does not have a literacy center. There is no one-stop place for people who need literacy tutoring, whether they are functionally illiterate in their English skills as a U.S.-born citizen, or those who are English as a second/third language learners.

I’m working with a Salem group, Mid-Valley Literacy Center (founded in 2009). Vivian Ang is my contact who is helping train Newport and Toledo-based citizens to help tutor my two clients. This is not an easy task, and Vivian, with more than 20 years of tutoring including at Chemeketa Community College, says it’s hit or miss.

“I do not have any experience with assisting an adult with a learning disability (developmental disability) to learn how to read,” she has repeated to me several times.

An adult who drives a car, works at a factory, runs a large piece of construction equipment, lives on his own and presents as a “regular sort of guy” can be in one of the most dire of circumstances — functional and complete illiteracy.

Wanting to learn how to read when you are in your 30s takes guts. There are stigmas for someone who can’t read an insurance form or simple job application.

The need is high in Lincoln County for adults like this client of mine — born in Newport and educated in Newport’s K-12 system, including special education classes — to learn how to read. But we have many from Mexico, Guatemala and other countries in our communities where learning how to read and speak English is more than just a step toward better pay.

Vivian tells me a story about an Oregon woman, from Mexico, illiterate in English, who had a sick daughter who needed medication to improve. The prescription stated, “Take this medication once a day.” In Spanish, once is the word for the number 11, so, tragically, the mother followed the prescription contextualized in her Spanish reading abilities. At 11 times a day, after a few days, the medication killed her two-year-old daughter.

Navigating housing, employment, the legal system, utility companies, landlords, cultural activities, and representative politics are basically off limits to a person who can’t read or write. The amount of exploitation, fines, fees, garnishments, late payments and other penalties is a regular occurrence for people who can’t read and write.

According to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy (founded 1991), low literacy in the USA costs us as a society $2.2 trillion a year. According to U.S. Department of Education, more than half of U.S. adults aged 16 to 74 years old (54 percent or 130 million people) lack proficiency in literacy, reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level.

For my many clients across the board, lack of reading, low reading levels and functional illiteracy can be linked to poorer health, low levels of civic engagement and low earnings in the labor market. On average, more than 70 percent of people following the seventh grade reading level for instructions on how to install an infant car seat fail to follow the proper steps.

I am enlisting tutors for my two clients. I have a librarian and a library technician on board. Three retired women living in Toledo and Newport, too. One of my client’s workplaces is stepping up and paying the nonprofit Vivian runs for the materials and training. That general manager is also providing a private space with internet access to his worker (I’ll call him Samuel) who is illiterate.

He tells me, “I wish I had 22 Samuel’s working for me. He’s an incredible worker, reliable, goes the extra mile.”

+–END--+

So, as an endpoint, I have to express the complete dissatisfaction with K12 and college and university settings, whereby the stuff (sic) taught is broken, stuffed and starved lies, with some of the most fearful or disruptive professors, principals, administrators and school boards ruining our youth, and our young adults’ minds. Lest we forget great workers for real education, fighting colonialism in Latin America and Africa. Oh, we need anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, anti-billionaire workers to bring real education to our people, intergenerational, on the land, away from dark hallways, 30 desks and chairs to a room, away from the atomization and disparity of capitalist miseducation:

Freire’s work and practice have inspired what has become a worldwide critical pedagogy movement. Cabral is a centrally important, yet mostly unacknowledged, influence of this movement. In the last prepared book before his death, subtitled Letters to Those who Dare Teach, Cabral’s influence on Freire seems to have remained central, as he insisted that “it is important to fight against the colonial traditions we bring with us.”


The Portuguese colonization of Guinea-Bissau was backed by Spain, South Africa, the United States, and NATO. Summarizing the pooled imperialist power wielded by Portugal in a report on the status of their struggle Cabral (1968a) elaborates:  In the basic fields of economics, finance and arms, which determine and condition the real political and moral behavior of states, the Portuguese government is able to count more than ever on the effective aid of the NATO allies and others. Anyone familiar with the relations between Portugal and its allies, namely the USA, Federal Germany and other Western powers, can see that this assistance (economic, financial and in war material) is constantly increasing, in the most diverse forms, overt and covert. By skillfully playing on the contingencies of the cold war, in particular on the strategic importance of its own geographical position and that of the Azores islands, by granting military bases to the USA and Federal Germany, by flying high the false banner of the defense of Western and Christian civilization in Africa, and by further subjecting the natural resources of the colonies and the Portuguese economy itself to the big financial monopolies, the Portuguese government has managed to guarantee for as long as necessary the assistance which it receives from the Western powers and from its racist allies in Southern Africa. (Source)

Read the piece,

“How Amílcar Cabral shaped Paulo Freire’s pedagogy: Frantz Fanon’s influence on Paulo Freire’s thought is well known, but the Brazilian educator also drew considerably from Amílcar Cabral, the revolutionary intellectual from Guinea-Bissau”

The post Local Man Overcomes Illiteracy One Tutor at a Time first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Dangers of Going Back to School After a Year of COVID-19 Lockdowns

Every day in communities across the United States, children and adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours in schools that have increasingly come to resemble places of detention more than places of learning.

— investigative journalist Annette Fuentes

Once upon a time in America, parents breathed a sigh of relief when their kids went back to school after a summer’s hiatus, content in the knowledge that for a good portion of the day their kids would be gainfully occupied, out of harm’s way and out of trouble.

Those were the good old days, before the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a whole new level of Nanny State authoritarianism to our daily lives, locking down communities, forcing kids out of the schoolroom and into virtual classrooms, leaving vast swaths of the work force dependent on government welfare, while pushing other segments into a work-from-home model, and generally subjecting us to an increasingly obnoxious level of intrusion by the government into our private lives.

Now, after almost 18 months away from a physical classroom, students are heading back to school.

Here’s what they can expect.

From the moment a child enters one of the nation’s 98,000 public schools to the moment he or she graduates, they will be exposed to a steady diet of:

  • draconian zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior,
  • overreaching anti-bullying statutes that criminalize speech,
  • school resource officers (police) tasked with disciplining and/or arresting so-called “disorderly” students,
  • standardized testing that emphasizes rote answers over critical thinking,
  • politically correct mindsets that teach young people to censor themselves and those around them,
  • and extensive biometric and surveillance systems that, coupled with the rest, acclimate young people to a world in which they have no freedom of thought, speech or movement.

Young people in America are now first in line to be searched, surveilled, spied on, threatened, tied up, locked down, treated like criminals for non-criminal behavior, tasered and in some cases shot.

Nowadays, students are not only punished for minor transgressions such as playing cops and robbers on the playground, bringing LEGOs to school, or having a food fight, but the punishments have become far more severe, shifting from detention and visits to the principal’s office into misdemeanor tickets, juvenile court, handcuffs, tasers and even prison terms.

Students have been suspended under school zero tolerance policies for bringing to school “look alike substances” such as oregano, breath mints, birth control pills and powdered sugar.

Look-alike weapons (toy guns—even Lego-sized ones, hand-drawn pictures of guns, pencils twirled in a “threatening” manner, imaginary bows and arrows, fingers positioned like guns) can also land a student in hot water, in some cases getting them expelled from school or charged with a crime.

Not even good deeds go unpunished.

One 13-year-old was given detention for exposing the school to “liability” by sharing his lunch with a hungry friend. A third grader was suspended for shaving her head in sympathy for a friend who had lost her hair to chemotherapy. And then there was the high school senior who was suspended for saying “bless you” after a fellow classmate sneezed.

In South Carolina, where it’s against the law to “disturb” a school, more than a thousand students a year—some as young as 7 years old—“face criminal charges for not following directions, loitering, cursing, or the vague allegation of acting ‘obnoxiously.’ If charged as adults, they can be held in jail for up to 90 days.”

These outrageous incidents are exactly what you’ll see more of now that in-person school is back in session, especially once you add COVID-19 mandates to the mix.

Having police in the schools only adds to the danger.

Thanks to a combination of media hype, political pandering and financial incentives, the use of armed police officers (a.k.a. school resource officers) to patrol school hallways has risen dramatically in the years since the Columbine school shooting.

Indeed, the growing presence of police in the nation’s schools is resulting in greater police “involvement in routine discipline matters that principals and parents used to address without involvement from law enforcement officers.”

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, these school resource officers (SRO) have become de facto wardens in elementary, middle and high schools, doling out their own brand of justice to the so-called “criminals” in their midst with the help of tasers, pepper spray, batons and brute force.

In the absence of school-appropriate guidelines, police are more and more “stepping in to deal with minor rulebreaking: sagging pants, disrespectful comments, brief physical skirmishes. What previously might have resulted in a detention or a visit to the principal’s office was replaced with excruciating pain and temporary blindness, often followed by a trip to the courthouse.”

The horror stories are legion.

One SRO was accused of punching a 13-year-old student in the face for cutting the cafeteria line.

That same cop put another student in a chokehold a week later, allegedly knocking the student unconscious and causing a brain injury.

In Pennsylvania, a student was tasered after ignoring an order to put his cell phone away.

When 13-year-old Kevens Jean Baptiste failed to follow a school bus driver’s direction to keep the bus windows closed (Kevens, who suffers from asthma, opened the window after a fellow student sprayed perfume, causing him to cough and wheeze), he was handcuffed by police, removed from the bus, and while still handcuffed, had his legs swept out from under him by an officer, causing him to crash to the ground.

Young Alex Stone didn’t even make it past the first week of school before he became a victim of the police state. Directed by his teacher to do a creative writing assignment involving a series of fictional Facebook statuses, Stone wrote, “I killed my neighbor’s pet dinosaur. I bought the gun to take care of the business.” Despite the fact that dinosaurs are extinct, the status fabricated, and the South Carolina student was merely following orders, his teacher reported him to school administrators, who in turn called the police.

What followed is par for the course in schools today: students were locked down in their classrooms while armed police searched the 16-year-old’s locker and bookbag, handcuffed him, charged him with disorderly conduct disturbing the school, arrested him, detained him, and then he was suspended from school.

Not even the younger, elementary school-aged kids are being spared these “hardening” tactics.

On any given day when school is in session, kids who “act up” in class are pinned facedown on the floor, locked in dark closets, tied up with straps, bungee cords and duct tape, handcuffed, leg shackled, tasered or otherwise restrained, immobilized or placed in solitary confinement in order to bring them under “control.”

In almost every case, these undeniably harsh methods are used to punish kids—some as young as 4 and 5 years old—for simply failing to follow directions or throwing tantrums.

Very rarely do the kids pose any credible danger to themselves or others.

Unbelievably, these tactics are all legal, at least when employed by school officials or school resource officers in the nation’s public schools.

This is what happens when you introduce police and police tactics into the schools.

Paradoxically, by the time you add in the lockdowns and active shooter drills, instead of making the schools safer, school officials have succeeded in creating an environment in which children are so traumatized that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, anxiety, mistrust of adults in authority, as well as feelings of anger, depression, humiliation, despair and delusion.

For example, a middle school in Washington State went on lockdown after a student brought a toy gun to class. A Boston high school went into lockdown for four hours after a bullet was discovered in a classroom. A North Carolina elementary school locked down and called in police after a fifth grader reported seeing an unfamiliar man in the school (it turned out to be a parent).

Police officers at a Florida middle school carried out an active shooter drill in an effort to educate students about how to respond in the event of an actual shooting crisis. Two armed officers, guns loaded and drawn, burst into classrooms, terrorizing the students and placing the school into lockdown mode.

These police state tactics have not made the schools any safer.

The fallout has been what you’d expect, with the nation’s young people treated like hardened criminals: handcuffed, arrested, tasered, tackled and taught the painful lesson that the Constitution (especially the Fourth Amendment) doesn’t mean much in the American police state.

Unfortunately, advocates for such harsh police tactics and weaponry like to trot out the line that school safety should be our first priority lest we find ourselves with another school shooting. What they will not tell you is that such shootings are rare.

As one congressional report found, the schools are, generally speaking, safe places for children.

There can be no avoiding the hands-on lessons being taught in the schools about the role of police in our lives, ranging from active shooter drills and school-wide lockdowns to incidents in which children engaging in typically childlike behavior are suspended (for shooting an imaginary “arrow” at a fellow classmate), handcuffed (for being disruptive at school), arrested (for throwing water balloons as part of a school prank), and even tasered (for not obeying instructions).

Instead of raising up a generation of freedom fighters—which one would hope would be the objective of the schools—government officials seem determined to churn out newly minted citizens of the American police state who are being taught the hard way what it means to comply, fear and march in lockstep with the government’s dictates.

So what’s the answer, not only for the here-and-now—the children growing up in these quasi-prisons—but for the future of this country?

How do you convince a child who has been routinely handcuffed, shackled, tied down, locked up, and immobilized by government officials—all before he reaches the age of adulthood—that he has any rights at all, let alone the right to challenge wrongdoing, resist oppression and defend himself against injustice?

Most of all, how do you persuade a fellow American that the government works for him when, for most of his young life, he has been incarcerated in an institution that teaches young people to be obedient and compliant citizens who don’t talk back, don’t question and don’t challenge authority?

As we’ve seen with other issues, any significant reforms will have to start locally and trickle upwards.

For starters, parents need to be vocal, visible and organized and demand that school officials 1) adopt a policy of positive reinforcement in dealing with behavior issues; 2) minimize the presence in the schools of police officers and cease involving them in student discipline; and 3) insist that all behavioral issues be addressed first and foremost with a child’s parents, before any other disciplinary tactics are attempted.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if you want a nation of criminals, treat the citizenry like criminals.

If you want young people who grow up seeing themselves as prisoners, run the schools like prisons.

If, on the other hand, you want to raise up a generation of freedom fighters, who will actually operate with justice, fairness, accountability and equality towards each other and their government, then run the schools like freedom forums.

Remove the metal detectors and surveillance cameras, re-assign the cops elsewhere, and start treating our nation’s young people like citizens of a republic and not inmates in a police state penitentiary.

The post The Dangers of Going Back to School After a Year of COVID-19 Lockdowns first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Discriminatory Enrollment Practices Are Pervasive In Charter Schools

Even though they receive enormous sums of public money and are ostensibly “public” schools “open to all,” charter schools have a long track record of discriminatory enrollment practices. Selective enrollment practices are widespread in non-profit and for-profit charter schools. Few charter schools have a truly diverse student body.

In recent years more research has shown how charter schools intensify segregation (see here, here, and here.)

While public schools accept all students at all times, charter school owners and operators use many covert and overt strategies to cherry-pick students  A main reason for such cherry-picking is to enroll mostly those students who will perform well on educationally unsound high-stakes standardized tests produced by large for-profit corporations. Charter school owners and operators are incentivized to do this in order to keep their contract (charter). Poor academic performance is one of the main reasons a charter school’s contract can be revoked. Thus, it is not unusual to frequently see non-profit and for-profit charter schools, all of which are run by unelected individuals, enroll disproportionately fewer English Language Learners, students with special needs, and homeless students. They also tend to avoid or “push out” students with “behavior problems.”

New Mexico recently made the news when the Santa Fe New Mexican reported on August 21, 2021 that “some” charter schools in that state may be using school admission policies that may be discriminatory. Specifically, some charter schools in the state “are violating state rules by requesting information about prospective students’ special-education needs.” The news report was based on an investigation conducted by a private law firm called Pegasus Legal Services. The newspaper goes on to say that:

Research has shown students who require special-education services often are discouraged from enrolling in charter schools. In 2018, Columbia University conducted a study on the issue. Researchers posing as parents sent out more than 6,000 emails to schools in 29 states, including New Mexico. They found schools were significantly less likely to respond to emails signaling the student had a disability.

It is well-known that charter schools not only under-enroll students with special needs, but when they do enroll students with special needs it is usually special needs students with mild disabilities, not severe disabilities. And even in this context, charter schools often play various shell games and student re-classification games to dodge various requirements. All of this has to do with avoiding high-need/high-cost students because both non-profit and for-profit charter schools operate as exchange-values, not use-values. In other words, charter schools avoid high-need/high-cost students because they are driven mainly by financial gain. By contrast, this is not how the nation’s 100,000 public schools operate.

Some charter school operators in New Mexico feigned ignorance when the Santa Fe New Mexican news report was published and pledged to “fix things.” Other charter school operators arrogantly and defiantly turned the issue around and made it sound like “being rigorous” is why they do not enroll many students with special needs. For their part, various state officials made it sound like they are perturbed by selective enrollment practices and created the impression that they would investigate such “disturbing” practices, which is unlikely to happen. Either way, long-standing discriminatory enrollment practices in schools that are funded by public dollars and said to be “public” and “open to all” violate a basic sense of justice and principles when they are not truly equitable and open to all. The charter school sector has been dogged by many other antisocial trends for 30 years.

The problem of the lack of diversity in privately-operated charter schools once again raises the issue of why there is such poor oversight and accountability in the crisis-prone charter school sector. Charter schools appear to be immune to pro-social reforms and are stubbornly neoliberal in their orientation and operations.

New Mexico passed its charter school law in 1993. Currently, there are nearly 100 charter schools in the state. Charter school laws exist in 45 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam. At 1,300, California has the most charter schools in the nation. Texas, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Washington DC, and New Orleans are also heavily saturated with charter schools run by unelected officials. Currently, about 3.4 million students are enrolled in roughly 7,400 deregulated charter schools across the country. Most of these students are poor or low-income minority urban youth. It is also worth noting that more than 3,000 charter schools have closed over the past 30 years, usually for three main reasons: financial malfeasance, mismanagement, or poor academic performance.

The post Discriminatory Enrollment Practices Are Pervasive In Charter Schools first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Too Many Years Teaching at Multiple Locations in Multiple Situations with Diverse Students: Need Not Apply!

Duties — Teacher, US Forest Service, Yachats, OR

Pledge · Restore the balance: more schools, less prisons! · Change.org

Summary

This position is located on the Angell Forest Service Job Corps Civilian Center in Yachats, OR.

The incumbent is responsible for providing classroom instruction to students in a variety of academic subjects.

For more information about the duties of this position, please contact BBF at: @usda.govor 541-547-

Responsibilities

  • Through classroom instruction and guidance.
  • Establishes a learning environment in which students can develop their ability to make rational and informed decisions relevant to their needs, as well as promote opportunities for students.
  • Instructs students in the following areas: reading, language, writing, mathematics, life skills, computer literacy, general educational development program, human development, and social studies.
  • Responsible for planning courses of instruction and lesson plans based on the developmental program and general curriculum guidelines in effect.
  • Implements plan using teaching methods and techniques appropriate for the skill level being taught, allowing for adaptations to permit individual differences in interests and ability and improve the quality of instruction.
  • Evaluates individual academic progress through the use of criterion-references, tests and/or other relevant evaluative methods/instruments.
  • Maintains required records in accordance with applicable regulations, which includes progress reports and accountability reports.

+—-+

This is it for America, for Government, for the entire shooting match. So, I have four decades teaching, man, or more, if you count the scuba diving classes I used to teach frequently in my late teens (18-20).

The entire thing is this job, with the Job Corps, necessitates an Oregon K12 teaching certificate? Amazing. I have been a certified substitute, emergency status, and that was in three states, and alas, I have taught taught taught. However, I have taught: in gang prevention programs for 10th graders; gifted and talented summer program at UT-Austin for juniors in high school; subbing K12, all subjects; running start classes at several community colleges — these are 11th and 12th graders getting to go to community college for their last two years of K12 with extra credit toward college credits; college courses for prisoners, enlisted military, Air Force-Army-Navy-Coast Guard-Marines in an academy in Texas; special education classes; alternative schools; classes in adult basic education; college classes all the way up to graduate writing classes; scuba classes; nature classes; outdoor experiential classes; kayaking classes; photo classes; camping classes; continuing education classes; Life Long Learning classes for older adults. Hell, the list goes on and on, yet I am not qualified to apply to this fucking US Forest Service job just advertised.

You know where I stand if you have read my stuff over the years at Dissident Voice.

Dumb ideas rise to the surface when professional managerial classes determine x and y and z for the masses, for those intersecting with anything tied to government or bureaucracy or top down idiocy thinking.

My application today is null and void because I do not have this piece of you know what “paper.” Teaching certificate, you know, a piece of paper that tells EVERYTHING about the character, life, experience, passion, vision, etc. of the person (NOT). I called the number, and the woman said it wasn’t her job description to write or determine, but the Department of Labor’s requirement. You can’t have much of a discussion with people on the other end of the bureaucratic line, even an HR at a Job Corps.

It is a conversation with a toad. Though a toad is so much more interesting than some person with their $70 K a year job, just holding on, just hanging on, just holding out.

I told her that I was living (in stable housing) 8 miles away from this Jobs Corps site, that I am seasoned beyond seasoned, and that the entire joke of education and these government jobs destroy people, youth that is. Can you imagine which “Oregon/Other State Teaching Certificate” holder might apply? This is the Oregon Coast, and housing is shit beyond shit. Feeling the strain of Don Quixote. Willy Lohman. Walter Middy. Raging against the system, the machine of idiocy.

Here my letter, attached to the application:

RE: Instructor at Angell Forest Service,  US Forest Service

To Whom It May Concern:

I am applying for this position with great enthusiasm and interest. I have been teaching youth and adults since 1983, as a graduate teaching assistant working on a masters, in El Paso. I have taught in high school programs, at community colleges, at universities, in outdoor education programs, for youth in trouble, in gang prevention programs, in prisons, and more.

I have designed courses for youth, for refugees, for adults. I also have been a substitute teacher in Washington, Vancouver, Ridgefield and Bush Prairie, as well as in Spokane. I also substituted here in Lincoln County, and for the alternative school in Lincoln City.

I have two master’s degrees, I am a dive master (recreational scuba), a cetacean naturalist (whales), photographer, and communications/English/journalism teacher.

I have taught students in Texas, Spokane, Seattle, and Portland who were going into education for undergraduate degrees. I do not have a state K12 teaching certificate.

What a waste of a job interview, a potential candidate for this vital position. I live in Waldport, have deep ties to environmental communities, and I know youth in Job Corps programs. I had two youth clients in my role as independent living program case manager in Clackamas County with Lifeworks. I went to that Job Corps many times, and even facilitated several presentations with myself as moderator and a professional football player guest.

I have the passion, the training for trauma informed case managing, I have worked with adults with learning disabilities, and I have taught every manner of audience and in many venues in many states, and in two countries (Mexico and Guatemala). I am sure the Department of Labor can be creative here and look deeper at my background, my educational experience and my vision for working with sometimes troubled youth.

I am student and client centered, and understand many aspects of mental health, have a deep knowledge of ACES, and have worked with homeless youth and adults.

Sincerely, Paul Haeder

 

Why Many Inner City Schools Function Like Prisons | Think Research Expose

 

It is the defining lack of intelligence moment after moment in this bloody country. It is the reason why students have no interest in schooling, unless daddy and mommy have a cool $200,000 a year (at least) income, and all the toys, all the trips to this or that country, to this or that museum. Tutors, and private schools. The people who end up in government, in administrations, and in private business. These people are driven by stupidity and their own cobbled thinking. But they end up controlling the masses with their backward and mean as cuss thinking. They set the rules, and there is no deviation from those stupid rules and guidelines.

No interview with me to see what I might offer youth at the job corps. No deep analysis of what I am as a teacher, mentor, facilitator, inspiration, man, world traveler, thinker, and, well, the list is long. But these outfits do not want innovators and passion and smarts and outside the box thinkers, systems thinkers, deeply cultured and intersectional leftwing men.

Time and time again, the absurdity of this society, that is, western society, plays out in millions of examples DAILY. For me, who is trying to find some home for a few years, some place to do good, to help youth, to learn how young people navigate the world, I get this shit.

Has anyone seen how quickly education is going toward Zoom Doom? How many teachers are dropping out? How charter theft schools are colonizing the “education” field? How the next and the next bioweapon variant, Delta, what have you, will knee-jerk CDC and Biden and Blue Governors for more lockdowns?

These Department of Labor folk call this a GS-09 position. Recall, that retired colonels from the US Army, ending up in civil service, land at least on the GS-14 to start, and I’ve been a writing teacher in El Paso for the US Army, and worked with some numb nuts and numb ovaries at the GS-17 level. Double dipping (retirement from the welfare state military), pieces of human stain. Some of them did real estate calls from their government offices, at taxpayer expense.

No getting to first base here for me, no place to plead my case, no place to enter into a sound argument why a teacher with decades teaching doesn’t need that fucking teaching certificate.

This GS-09 job pay? $53,433 a year!

Not rolling in money, but imagine giving me that shot, for a few years, and, then, imagine the changes that these young people’s lives might experience. This is psycho, insane, breaking of the human spirit, killing of youthful genius. Look below:

An Unschooling Manifesto: Why Do Many Schools Resemble Prisons?

Traditional education can be seen as sculptural in nature, individual destiny is written somewhere within the human being, awaiting dross to be removed before a true image shines forth. Schooling, on the other hand, seeks a way to make mind and character blank, so others may chisel the destiny thereon.

The net effect of holding children in confinement for twelve years without honor paid to the spirit is a compelling demonstration that the State considers the Western spiritual tradition dangerous, subversive. And of course it is. School is about creating loyalty to certain goals and habits, a vision of life, support for a class structure, an intricate system of human relationships cleverly designed to manufacture the continuous low level of discontent upon which mass production and finance rely. — John Taylor —Gatto, The Underground History of American Education

What's the difference between school and prison? | Millard Fillmore's Bathtub

This all falls on deaf ears. I have friend after friend who just know I should get a few million bucks from some philanthropy to do what I can do and know what should be done —

  • Micro-housing for houseless and those disabled and aging in place.
  • Thirty acres or more with community buildings/kitchens/workshops.
  • Real community gardens/greenhouses.
  • College students in nursing, social work, other fields interning.
  • School youth (K12) coming to these communities for weekend intensive outdoor education encampments: catching salmon; smoking salmon; building teepees; constructing one tiny home on wheels in one three-day encampment; streaming live to other youth in other countries; building fires, making musical instruments, learning basket weaving; elders and others on site discussing the realities of the world from indigenous knowledge; discussing the failures of capitalism, and bringing youth to understand that creating their tribes (friends, elders, others) is the only way to survive the climate disaster, the coming of AI and robotics, and more.
  • Photo spread for the weekend; filmmaking; learning how to write to politicians, talk before city councils, and how to run for dog catcher or school board and WHY.
  • Canning and preserving.
  • So much more.

The reality is this sort of model (I have a much more detailed model or models, that is) is rubber meeting the road. Real learning, real deep thinking, real critique thinking skills, real debate skills, real ways to fight city hall, lobby and form community networks and organizing. In a natural setting. No rows of desks, prison bells, redneck vice principals and yawning PE instructors.

Instead, we get Dollar Tree education and drive-through shit for schools, which are indoctrination camps, macho camps, personality bashing camps, peer pressure dungeons, schools where the turnkeys are not the sharpest pencils in the box!

Forest Schools: Education in the great outdoors

Outdoor School | OSU Extension Service

Outdoor Environmental Education Program - Western Suffolk Boces
Pandemic could decimate environmental, outdoor science education programs | Berkeley News

Why Outdoor Experiences Are Necessary for Early Childhood Education | Resilient Educator

The post Too Many Years Teaching at Multiple Locations in Multiple Situations with Diverse Students: Need Not Apply! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Public Money Used to Increase Segregated Charter Schools

It is well-documented that charter schools intensify segregation on the basis of ability, language, race, and socioeconomic status. Charter school demographics frequently do not reflect the demographics of public schools in their communities. This is because privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools routinely engage in selective enrollment practices even though they are “schools of choice” ostensibly “open to all.” Families may “choose” a charter school but the charter school ultimately decides who is admitted, who stays, and who doesn’t. Public schools, on the other hand, accept all students at all times. They are also more accountable and transparent than privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools.

The latest report on federally-funded segregation in the charter school sector comes from the award-winning veteran educator Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education (NPE). Carol has produced several well-researched reports in the past couple of years on extensive fraud, waste, and abuse in the crisis-prone charter school sector. She has focused mainly on the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) which annually funnels hundreds of millions of public dollars to charter schools operated by unelected individuals. The program is authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Despite many attempts, the federal government has largely ignored multiple public demands to end this state-organized corruption to pay the rich. This is despite the fact that president Joe Biden promised to ban for-profit charter schools and support efforts to bring more accountability to charters. Instead, the Biden administration has stuck to spending $440 million on the Charter Schools Program this year, which is a default win for privately-operated charter schools. Since 1994 the federal government has funneled about $4 billion in public funds to these segregated contract schools through the Charter School Program. Through her previous work, Carol showed that millions of dollars were sent to many charter schools that either never opened or operated only for a few years and then closed, leaving many families high and dry.

In her latest investigation, Carol shows how public money from the federal Charter Schools Program is being used in North Carolina to strengthen segregation through the mechanism of charter schools. These are alternatively known as “white-flight academies.” Among other things, Carol notes that the justification for the use of many grant monies from the federal Charter Schools Program is often weak and makes no sense. Many disturbing details and cases can be found here. For example, 11 charter schools in North Carolina that received CSP funds “have significant overrepresentation of White students or a significant underrepresentation of Black students compared with the population of the public school district in which they are located.” So much for the worn-out assertion by charter school advocates that charter schools are about the civil rights of minority students.

Sadly, there is no shortage of such examples in many cities across the country. It is not easy to find charter schools that are diverse and integrated. In Rochester, New York, for example, the Genesee Community Charter School is not only known for being predominantly white and wealthy, but also for resisting any attempts to diversify and integrate. The New York State Board of Regents has repeatedly criticized the privately-operated charter school for maintaining a student body that is much wealthier and whiter than the Rochester City School District. The same can be said about the notorious Success Academies charter school chain in New York City. Many of these charter schools, it should also be noted, rely heavily on anachronistic Skinnerian behaviorist practices to enforce student obedience.

Another troubling twist in the evolution of privately-operated charter schools is the growing use by religious organizations, churches, Catholic schools, and private schools of the charter school mechanism to further segregate communities. This is another expression of the accelerated neoliberal restructuring of state arrangements by powerful private interests to seize public funds in the context of a continually failing economy. In the neoliberal period, public authority is increasingly being usurped to serve privileged private interests in the sphere of education. Private entities of various kinds are eager to fund their operations through the seizure of public funds that belong to the public sector. This parasitic appropriation of public funds by non-transparent and non-diverse private or religious entities usually goes hand in hand with offering fewer services and programs as well (e.g., transportation services and food programs). And more often than not, to make-up for “cost reductions,” parents are pressured or required to donate time and/or money to these private entities.

Privatized education arrangements are rarely about serving all students, let alone equally. More than anything else, such arrangements reflect and fortify the stratification found in society. They reinforce various inequalities. They do not reduce exclusion and segregation. They are the opposite of unitary public school systems that have emerged around the world to educate all students as part of a modern nation-building project.

Modern societies based on mass industrial production cannot survive without large, public, free, universal, school systems. Modern societies should not reduce a social necessity and public good like education to a commodity or treat parents and students as consumers who fend-for-themselves in an increasingly chaotic and anarchic education marketplace. A system of winners and losers ensures inequality and belongs in the past.

The post Public Money Used to Increase Segregated Charter Schools first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Total Tyranny: We’ll All Be Targeted under the Government’s New Precrime Program

There is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America.

James Bamford

It never fails.

Just as we get a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, there might be a chance of crawling out of this totalitarian cesspool in which we’ve been mired, we get kicked down again.

In the same week that the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared that police cannot carry out warrantless home invasions in order to seize guns under the pretext of their “community caretaking” duties, the Biden Administration announced its plans for a “precrime” crime prevention agency.

Talk about taking one step forward and two steps back.

Precrime, straight out of the realm of dystopian science fiction movies such as Minority Report, aims to prevent crimes before they happen by combining widespread surveillance, behavior prediction technologies, data mining, precognitive technology, and neighborhood and family snitch programs to enable police to capture would-be criminals before they can do any damage.

This particular precrime division will fall under the Department of Homeland Security, the agency notorious for militarizing the police and SWAT teams; spying on activists, dissidents and veterans; stockpiling ammunition; distributing license plate readers; contracting to build detention camps; tracking cell-phones with Stingray devices; carrying out military drills and lockdowns in American cities; using the TSA as an advance guard; conducting virtual strip searches with full-body scanners; carrying out soft target checkpoints; directing government workers to spy on Americans; conducting widespread spying networks using fusion centers; carrying out Constitution-free border control searches; funding city-wide surveillance cameras; and utilizing drones and other spybots.

The intent, of course, is for the government to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful in its preemptive efforts to combat domestic extremism.

Where we run into trouble is when the government gets overzealous and over-ambitious and overreaches.

This is how you turn a nation of citizens into snitches and suspects.

In the blink of an eye, ordinary Americans will find themselves labeled domestic extremists for engaging in lawful behavior that triggers the government’s precrime sensors.

Of course, it’s an elaborate setup: we’ll all be targets.

In such a suspect society, the burden of proof is reversed so that guilt is assumed and innocence must be proven.

It’s the American police state’s take on the dystopian terrors foreshadowed by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Phillip K. Dick all rolled up into one oppressive pre-crime and pre-thought crime package.

What’s more, the technocrats who run the surveillance state don’t even have to break a sweat while monitoring what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, how much you spend, whom you support, and with whom you communicate.

Computers now do the tedious work of trolling social media, the internet, text messages and phone calls for potentially anti-government remarks, all of which is carefully recorded, documented, and stored to be used against you someday at a time and place of the government’s choosing.

In this way, with the help of automated eyes and ears, a growing arsenal of high-tech software, hardware and techniques, government propaganda urging Americans to turn into spies and snitches, as well as social media and behavior sensing software, government agents are spinning a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports aimed at snaring potential enemies of the state.

It works the same in any regime.

As Professor Robert Gellately notes in his book Backing Hitler about the police state tactics used in Nazi Germany: “There were relatively few secret police, and most were just processing the information coming in. I had found a shocking fact. It wasn’t the secret police who were doing this wide-scale surveillance and hiding on every street corner. It was the ordinary German people who were informing on their neighbors.”

Here’s the thing as the Germans themselves quickly discovered: you won’t have to do anything illegal or challenge the government’s authority in order to be flagged as a suspicious character, labeled an enemy of the state and locked up like a dangerous criminal.

In fact, all you will need to do is use certain trigger words, surf the internet, communicate using a cell phone, drive a car, stay at a hotel, purchase materials at a hardware store, take flying or boating lessons, appear suspicious to a neighbor, question government authority, or generally live in the United States.

The following activities are guaranteed to get you censored, surveilled, eventually placed on a government watch list, possibly detained and potentially killed.

Use harmless trigger words like cloud, pork and pirates: The Department of Homeland Security has an expansive list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats. While you’ll definitely send up an alert for using phrases such as dirty bomb, Jihad and Agro terror, you’re just as likely to get flagged for surveillance if you reference the terms SWAT, lockdown, police, cloud, food poisoning, pork, flu, Subway, smart, delays, cancelled, la familia, pirates, hurricane, forest fire, storm, flood, help, ice, snow, worm, warning or social media.

Use a cell phone: Simply by using a cell phone, you make yourself an easy target for government agents—working closely with corporations—who can listen in on your phone calls, read your text messages and emails, and track your movements based on the data transferred from, received by, and stored in your cell phone. Mention any of the so-called “trigger” words in a conversation or text message, and you’ll get flagged for sure.

Drive a car: Unless you’ve got an old junkyard heap without any of the gadgets and gizmos that are so attractive to today’s car buyers (GPS, satellite radio, electrical everything, smart systems, etc.), driving a car today is like wearing a homing device: you’ll be tracked from the moment you open that car door thanks to black box recorders and vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems that can monitor your speed, direction, location, the number of miles traveled, and even your seatbelt use. Once you add satellites, GPS devices, license plate readers, and real-time traffic cameras to the mix, there’s nowhere you can go on our nation’s highways and byways that you can’t be followed. By the time you add self-driving cars into the futuristic mix, equipped with computers that know where you want to go before you do, privacy and autonomy will be little more than distant mirages in your rearview mirror.

Attend a political rally: Enacted in the wake of 9/11, the Patriot Act redefined terrorism so broadly that many non-terrorist political activities such as protest marches, demonstrations and civil disobedience were considered potential terrorist acts, thereby rendering anyone desiring to engage in protected First Amendment expressive activities as suspects of the surveillance state.

Express yourself on social media: The FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies are investing in and relying on corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior. A decorated Marine, 26-year-old Brandon Raub was targeted by the Secret Service because of his Facebook posts, interrogated by government agents about his views on government corruption, arrested with no warning, labeled mentally ill for subscribing to so-called “conspiratorial” views about the government, detained against his will in a psych ward for having “dangerous” opinions, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys.

Serve in the military: Operation Vigilant Eagle, the brainchild of the Dept. of Homeland Security, calls for surveillance of military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, characterizing them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.” Police agencies are also using Beware, an “early warning” computer system that tips them off to a potential suspect’s inclination to be a troublemaker and assigns individuals a color-coded threat score—green, yellow or red—based on a variety of factors including one’s criminal records, military background, medical history and social media surveillance.

Disagree with a law enforcement official: A growing number of government programs are aimed at identifying, monitoring and locking up anyone considered potentially “dangerous” or mentally ill (according to government standards, of course). For instance, a homeless man in New York City who reportedly had a history of violence but no signs of mental illness was forcibly detained in a psych ward for a week after arguing with shelter police. Despite the fact that doctors cited no medical reason to commit him, the man was locked up in accordance with a $22 million program that monitors mentally ill people considered “potentially” violent. According to the Associated Press, “A judge finally ordered his release, ruling that the man’s commitment violated his civil rights and that bureaucrats had meddled in his medical treatment.”

Call in sick to work: In Virginia, a so-called police “welfare check” instigated by a 58-year-old man’s employer after he called in sick resulted in a two-hour, SWAT team-style raid on the man’s truck and a 72-hour mental health hold. During the standoff, a heavily armed police tactical team confronted Benjamin Burruss as he was leaving an area motel, surrounded his truck, deployed a “stinger” device behind the rear tires, launched a flash grenade, smashed the side window in order to drag him from the truck, handcuffed and searched him, and transported him to a local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and mental health hold. All of this was done despite the fact that police acknowledged they had no legal basis nor probable cause for detaining Burruss, given that he had not threatened to harm anyone and was not mentally ill.

Limp or stutter: As a result of a nationwide push to certify a broad spectrum of government officials in mental health first-aid training (a 12-hour course comprised of PowerPoint presentations, videos, discussions, role playing and other interactive activities), more Americans are going to run the risk of being reported for having mental health issues by non-medical personnel. Mind you, once you get on such a government watch list—whether it’s a terrorist watch list, a mental health watch list, or a dissident watch list—there’s no clear-cut way to get off, whether or not you should actually be on there. For instance, one 37-year-old disabled man was arrested, diagnosed by police and an unlicensed mental health screener as having “mental health issues,” apparently because of his slurred speech and unsteady gait, and subsequently locked up for five days in a mental health facility against his will and with no access to family and friends. A subsequent hearing found that Gordon Goines, who suffers from a neurological condition similar to multiple sclerosis, has no mental illness and should not have been confined.

Appear confused or nervous, fidget, whistle or smell bad: According to the Transportation Security Administration’s 92-point secret behavior watch list for spotting terrorists, these are among some of the telling signs of suspicious behavior: fidgeting, whistling, bad body odor, yawning, clearing your throat, having a pale face from recently shaving your beard, covering your mouth with your hand when speaking and blinking your eyes fast. You can also be pulled aside for interrogation if you “have ‘unusual items,’ like almanacs and ‘numerous prepaid calling cards or cell phones.’” One critic of the program accurately referred to the program as a “license to harass.”

Allow yourself to be seen in public waving a toy gun or anything remotely resembling a gun, such as a water nozzle or a remote control or a walking cane, for instance: No longer is it unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later. John Crawford was shot by police in an Ohio Wal-Mart for holding an air rifle sold in the store that he may have intended to buy. Thirteen-year-old Andy Lopez Cruz was shot 7 times in 10 seconds by a California police officer who mistook the boy’s toy gun for an assault rifle. Christopher Roupe, 17, was shot and killed after opening the door to a police officer. The officer, mistaking the Wii remote control in Roupe’s hand for a gun, shot him in the chest. Another police officer repeatedly shot 70-year-old Bobby Canipe during a traffic stop. The cop saw the man reaching for his cane and, believing the cane to be a rifle, opened fire.

Stare at a police officer: Miami-Dade police slammed the 14-year-old Tremaine McMillian to the ground, putting him in a chokehold and handcuffing him after he allegedly gave them “dehumanizing stares” and walked away from them, which the officers found unacceptable.

Appear to be pro-gun, pro-freedom or anti-government: You might be a domestic terrorist in the eyes of the FBI (and its network of snitches) if you: express libertarian philosophies (statements, bumper stickers); exhibit Second Amendment-oriented views (NRA or gun club membership); read survivalist literature, including apocalyptic fictional books; show signs of self-sufficiency (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies); fear an economic collapse; buy gold and barter items; subscribe to religious views concerning the book of Revelation; voice fears about Big Brother or big government; expound about constitutional rights and civil liberties; or believe in a New World Order conspiracy. This is all part of a larger trend in American governance whereby dissent is criminalized and pathologized, and dissenters are censored, silenced or declared unfit for society.

Attend a public school: Microcosms of the police state, America’s public schools contain almost every aspect of the militarized, intolerant, senseless, overcriminalized, legalistic, surveillance-riddled, totalitarian landscape that plagues those of us on the “outside.” From the moment a child enters one of the nation’s 98,000 public schools to the moment she graduates, she will be exposed to a steady diet of draconian zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior, overreaching anti-bullying statutes that criminalize speech, school resource officers (police) tasked with disciplining and/or arresting so-called “disorderly” students, standardized testing that emphasizes rote answers over critical thinking, politically correct mindsets that teach young people to censor themselves and those around them, and extensive biometric and surveillance systems that, coupled with the rest, acclimate young people to a world in which they have no freedom of thought, speech or movement. Additionally, as part of the government’s so-called ongoing war on terror, the FBI—the nation’s de facto secret police force—has been recruiting students and teachers to spy on each other and report anyone who appears to have the potential to be “anti-government” or “extremist” as part of its “Don’t Be a Puppet” campaign.

Speak truth to power: Long before Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden were being castigated for blowing the whistle on the government’s war crimes and the National Security Agency’s abuse of its surveillance powers, it was activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon who were being singled out for daring to speak truth to power. These men and others like them had their phone calls monitored and data files collected on their activities and associations. For a little while, at least, they became enemy number one in the eyes of the U.S. government.

Yet as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, you don’t even have to be a dissident to get flagged by the government for surveillance, censorship and detention.

All you really need to be is a citizen of the American police state.

The post Total Tyranny: We’ll All Be Targeted under the Government’s New Precrime Program first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Americans Minds are Artificially Intelligent

I advocate the thesis which holds that the tendency towards totalitarianism is part of the essence of the machine, and originally proceeded from the realm of technology; that the tendency, inherent to every machine as such, to subjugate the world, to parasitically seize upon the fragments that have not yet been subjugated, to merge with other machines and to operate with them as pieces of a single, total machine: I maintain that this tendency represents the fundamental fact and that political totalitarianism, as horrible as it is, only represents an effect and variant of this fundamental technological fact. While the spokesmen of the technologically advanced world powers have been claiming for decades that they are engaged in resistance against the principle of totalitarianism (in the interest of the “free world”), their claims are fraudulent or, in the best cases, are the effect of a lack of intelligence, for the principle of totalitarianism is a technical principle and, as such, is not fought—nor will it ever be fought—by the “anti-totalitarians” From the times of the dictatorship we know that, from the moment when one considers that it is possible that one is under surveillance, one feels and behaves differently than one did before, that is, in a more conformist way, when not in an absolutely conformist way. The unverifiable possibility of being under surveillance has a decisive capacity for molding: it molds the entire population.

— Gunther Anders, The Obsolescence of Man, Volume II.

The acceleration of innovation, made possible by an exponential increase in calculating power, led straight to a hyper-technological Ancien Regime where the positions to be occupied in the hierarchy of jobs, incomes, assets, education, living spaces, etc., depend on birth exactly as they did before the French Revolution. Thus, from the transhumanism of Silicon Valley there emerges not a post-human self but a very familiar figure, the aristocrat, having become cyber and with a head, cut off in 1789, that has grown back. Confidence in technology as a means of creating more liberty, more democracy, and less enslavement is belied once more by the truly deplorable actual results of this reproduction of power relations.

— Maurizio Lazzarato, Capital Hates Everyone

Artificial Intelligence: Adults

It is tempting to think that free-will exists. Unfortunately, it does not, particularly in America (tip of the hat to Baruch Spinoza writing in his Ethics). Taste in music (rap, rock, pop, etc.), fashion and food; political orientation whether left, right or center; what sports team to support, or vehicle to drive, or television series to watch is all supplied by media/corporations to American brains that are as malleable as silly putty.  The mind easily succumbs to the totalitarian machinations of the American domestic/global capitalist network as its marketers, advertisers, and politicians/ideologues pound content into the brain via television news, hand-held computers/telephones, the world wide web, social media, and legacy media. Alberto J. L. Carrillo Canan believes that “the dominant technological forms determine the way we conceive reality, human life and mind.”

How does one account for a meaningful life in American society? What would be contained in a meaningful life’s ledger? How do you determine if you are free and not programmed? Two days of administered freedom at the end of the workweek? A new car? A two-week vacation at the beach? A mammoth flat screen television? A new iPhone? A new season of a television series on Netflix? A college degree? A mortgage on the house?  A yearly bonus for productivity? The ability to vote for only two candidates for the President of the United States? An opinion you really believe is yours?

All these “things” are supplied to you and all courtesy of the bio-capitalist, totalitarian machine. No one can escape it. Young or old, the American mind is captive to the totalitarian technological order. Ideas, products, news, and opinions are supplied, recycled/rehashed and delivered. But what about the spontaneous protests and demands of, say, Black Lives Matter (BLM), you ask? Notice how quickly BLM’s agenda was absorbed by the entire totalitarian capitalist enterprise who made easy money available via donations to BLM activists, advertised their cause, and promised to hire more Blacks. BLM is now a fading blip on the American capitalist radar shot down by the capitalist totalitarian system. Indeed, BLM has cashed in. The same story/process is repeated over and over again no matter the issue or the protest or the time.

Not Your Opinion, Your Meaningless Life

“It does not matter whether someone who is expressing himself thinks that his expression is his own bona fide expression, or even if he asks himself ‘is this my opinion or not?’, or even if he does not even understand the question; in any case, what is not permitted is that what he expresses should be his own opinion; it must always be a supplied opinion. Even when it seems to be advisable to allow variations, they must be predictable variations on the pre-established theme…Most of those who lead meaningless lives are not even conscious of their misfortune. By way of the life that is imposed upon them they are prevented from perceiving its lack of meaning. That is why they cannot do anything to counteract this lack of meaning, either. Or, more precisely: even what they do to counteract it is something that is done to them, that is, something that is supplied to them,” claims Anders.

According to Lazaratto, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft (plus consolidated media) are the masters guiding the behaviors of the governed. “By constantly soliciting one’s attention—giving rise to an activity as absurd as compulsively consulting one’s smartphone…they tirelessly fabricate and information designed to affect subjectivities circulating through billions of telephones, televisions, computers, tablets, whose connections envelop the planet in a thicker and thicker net.”

It is not just the corporations, though. Republicans, Democrats, the US Military, interest groups, and lobbyists (collectively, the neoliberal order) all get their products/messages on the airwaves and into the minds of the American human herd. The “masters” would likely be happier automating/digitizing American citizens/slaves.

Glutaraldehyde Fixation: Duh, What?

The digital dissection of the human being, individually and collectively, is proceeding apace. Uploading “the human” is no longer the stuff of science fiction. In a few generations, a parent may say to a child, “Hey, let’s upload great grandpa and see/hear what he has to say.” Why not pull the brain out of a dead body, preserve it in a special solution, and then mine it for memories that can be turned into 0’s and 1’s.

Macabre, you likely say, but the research is underway and funded. Ah, the beauty of capitalism. Consider the enterprising company Nectome. They are in the business of preserving the brains of the dead in hopes of digitally retrieving long term memories.

According to MIT Technology Review, “Nectome has received substantial support for its technology, however. It has raised $1 million in funding so far, including the $120,000 that Y Combinator provides to all the companies it accepts. It has also won a $960,000 federal grant from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health for “whole-brain nanoscale preservation and imaging,” the text of which foresees a “commercial opportunity in offering brain preservation” for purposes including drug research.”

Tracking digital footprints and then converting them into behavioral models able to predict the next set of keystrokes, online and offline habits/geolocations, and spending preferences are well known practices undertaken by companies like Alphabet-Google. For example, today’s software programs learn what words and individual uses to compose letters, articles, emails and once enough verbiage has been collated by the machine, a human writer can cut out the thought process used to seek out an adjective, a noun or verb. Just one more human function taken away from the brain and absorbed by the software in the machine.

In some not to distant future, the human mind/person will be digitized and exist in a bio-machine.

Artificial Intelligence: Youngsters

What kind of adults are being created by the totalitarian technological education system? I used to believe that an innovative education based on critical thinking and systems analysis, beginning from about 4th grade level through high school, might provide a check on the monstrous technology/system that is dominating every facet of life.

But having experience education as a teacher in both public and private settings, I have stopped believing that youngsters are going to be anything more than unconscious routers, servers, or surveillance sensors for the totalitarian machine. They will be more conformist than their parents or the adults that are nominally in charge of the United States.

The teachers/system set a pace that is relentless which means there is no time for a pause or a gaze into thoughtfulness/thinking. It is not learning but programming that the students are subjected to.

I asked an 8th grader recently what he would change about school if he could. “I would not teach boring,” he responded. “All the students I know don’t like school because it is so boring. Teachers need to change. We are not learning anything,” he said in frustration. Add to this the crazy reality that the World Wide Web is barely used by teachers for science, math, politics, history, or geography. It is largely a cut and paste enterprise with teachers selecting documents from the Web, printing them out in paper form, and distributing them to their classes.

The  public and private schools I have been in (K-12) are a dizzying mish-mash of things and frenetic human activity: wires, electronic white boards; non-ergonomic 19th Century desks and chairs  (plastic and aluminum); Apple iPads; robotic parts; Lego’s; classrooms adorned with cardboard signs with annoying cliches (You’re Special or The Future Starts Here); laptops; boxes of crayons and pencils; decade old paper files in equally old file cabinets; hallway banners proclaiming “Award Winning School, 2020”; half empty classrooms due to the COVID19 Pandemic; virtual students on Microsoft Teams at home who log in and leave the class, never responding to a teacher’s question; layers of management (assistant principals); constant teacher meetings/professional development courses; waves of substitute teachers; and curriculum focused solely on achieving high scores on a State’s Standards of Learning.

Many of the software programs used for learning, particularly in grades K-8, are equivalent to an arcade game or pinball machine: carnival music accompanies the student through, say, a science lesson. Answer correctly and the sound of a bell or whistle can be heard. Answer a question wrong and later a “power up” function gives you a chance to correct your mistake and add points. There are also competitive learning games that students participate in. Cartoonish software programs like Kahoot, Nearpod, Gizmo, Quizizz, Brain Pop all amp up the level of excitement to create an experience similar to a popular video game.

I was substituting in an 8th grade science class recently where the subject being taught was weather. I asked the students if the teacher was using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.GOV) website to help them learn about the subject. They looked at me like I was an alien creature. “What’s that,” one student responded. I explained but to no avail as I had to get to the instructions left by the teacher that I was to follow.

Red Guards

I was substitute teaching in a classroom full of 8th graders (12-13 years old, I am 65) not long ago. I was talking about something or other and inadvertently pulled my mask down below my lips for a few moments exposing my face. It was an error in judgment, a mistake for which I had no excuse (I am fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and was 6 feet away from the nearest student). When I was finished speaking to the class, I pulled my mask back up and thought nothing of it.

Turns out that I was surreptitiously being recorded by a student who turned the video over to an assistant principal. I was nearly released for the mistake but the assistant principal that first received the video argued on my behalf to the principal and I was kept on staff. My punishment was to write a memo for record/file explaining what I had done. The next step was to apologize to the 8th graders in person.

I thought immediately of Mao’s Red Guards: “The first Red Guards groups were made up of students, ranging from as young as elementary school children up to university students…The Red Guards also publicly humiliated teachers, monks, former landowners or anyone else suspected of being “counter-revolutionary.”

What happened to, “Hey, Mr. Stanton, you need to put your mask back up.”

Not long ago, I was in a class with a new substitute teacher, fresh out of college. He politely asked the class of 6th graders what time the class ended. What he got was this from a student, “You are the substitute, you should know.

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