Category Archives: Students

Pennsylvania: Charter School Money Heist

For some time now, public school superintendents in Pennsylvania, as well as the governor of that state and many others, have been striving to restrict the charter school money grab that has been allowed to run amok in that state for years.

Cyber charter schools in particular, notorious for consistently abysmal academic results and for being even more corrupt than brick-and-mortar charter schools, have come under fire because they receive large sums of public funds that are vastly disproportionate to their needs, functions, and claims. Overhead costs in cyber charter schools, it should be noted, are much lower than overhead costs in brick-and-mortar public schools and brick-and-mortar charter schools, but the flawed funding system essentially treats cyber charter schools like brick-and-mortar schools. Virtual charter schools also provide fewer services and resources than brick-and-mortar public schools, which can be especially problematic for students with special needs. All of this is beside the fact that charter schools have no legitimate claim to public money in the first place because they are not public entities in the proper sense of the word. Charter schools are privatized deregulated schools run by unelected private persons. Unlike public schools, charter schools are not agencies of the state and differ from public schools in profound ways. Charter school promoters, moreover, openly espouse “free market” ideology.

At a recent press conference addressing the siphoning of large sums of public funds from public schools to privately-operated charter schools, Christopher Dormer, superintendent of the Norristown school district, said that, “today is an attack on a law that is broken, with skewed formulas that have resulted in drastic overpayments to charters, with little or no oversight on how those tax dollars are being spent” (emphasis added). Dormer added:

I’ll tell you, it does not cost $14,000 per year to educate a child in a fully virtual environment’, referring to what Norristown pays per student attending cyber charters. In contrast, he said, it costs the district $5,500 to educate a student fully online.

In the Perkiomen Valley school district:

costs for sending students to charters have grown by more than 55% since 2015, said Superintendent Barbara Russell. ‘That takes money away from the students attending in our school district’, Russell said. While the district has its own virtual learning programs, the money it must pay for students to attend cyber charter schools where the accountability looks very different … raises lots of questions’. (emphasis added)

Virtual charter schools in Pennsylvania also exploit the public by self-servingly reclassifying many students as “special education” students just to seize more public funds from public schools that are chronically under-funded. For example:

Bill Harner, the Quakertown Community School District superintendent, said one-third of students in his district who enroll in cyber charters are classified by their new schools as having a disability. “Why are they being reclassified? Because it’s a cash cow,” Harner said. “It’s a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Larry Feinberg, a veteran school board member and director of the Keystone Center for Charter Change, points out that the existing charter school funding system means “fewer resources to pay for things like math coaches, reading coaches, nurses, counselors” in public schools. “The impact is palpable, and it’s real.”

Charter school funding arrangements (in Pennsylvania and elsewhere) are so dysfunctional that they also often force higher property taxes on communities where they exist. Equally worrisome, charter schools also impose huge “stranded costs” on public schools, which are “expenses that school districts can’t recoup when students leave for a charter, because they can’t evenly reduce teachers or building expenses, for instance.”

It thus comes as no surprise that:

More than 430 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts have passed a resolution calling for charter funding changes, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Many other examples of antisocial funding arrangements can be given. The issue though is not to determine a “more fair” way to funnel public money to privately-operated charter schools, but rather to discuss and analyze in a serious manner why these outsourced deregulated schools exist in the first place and how to untether them from public funds, assets, facilities, and resources that legitimately belong only to public schools.

Within this, what also needs to be discussed is the neoliberal “starve it—test it—punish it—privatize it” (STPP) formula, whereby thousands of public schools in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have been deliberately set up by neoliberals to fail and close in an unconscionable manner so as to make way for thousands of poor-performing charter schools constantly mired in scandal and controversy.

Two other key points are worth considering. First, like private businesses, cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania collectively spend millions of public dollars every year on marketing and advertising instead of spending this public money directly in the classroom. Secondly, why do charter schools need to advertise at all if so many parents supposedly want to enroll their kids in them and there are said to be long waiting lists to get into them? The neoliberal narrative about school-choice has never computed.

Not surprisingly, while superintendents and public interest advocates in Pennsylvania are seeking broad reforms to the current defective school funding set-up, advocates of privately-operated charter schools are fighting tooth and nail for every single public cent they can seize. They have little sympathy for public schools and their students.

To be sure, major problems caused by funneling public funds to privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools is a national problem and not unique to Pennsylvania. For more than 30 years, public schools in America have been undermined by these crisis-prone contract schools run by unelected private persons.

“Free market” schools do not advance people, society, or the economy; they mainly enrich a handful of individuals and groups. The commodification of education in a modern society based on mass industrial production is profoundly counterproductive.

See here for a detailed article on the unbreakable connection between government and charter school millionaires and lobbyists. Preventing charter schools from privately expropriating public property is doable and necessary. No one has to settle for such theft of public wealth by narrow private interests.

There are 179 charter schools in Pennsylvania. Cyber charter schools serve the entire state.

The post Pennsylvania: Charter School Money Heist first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What do you REALLY know about student loan forgiveness?

The debate [sic] related to student loan forgiveness is almost always based on media lies and carved-in-stone ideological identities. For example, if you see yourself as left or liberal, you salivate each time Bernie Sanders evokes the specter of 100 percent forgiveness. Conservatives reflexively grumble about “big government” and/or “work ethic” without doing any real investigation.

Hey, who needs facts when we have our [sic] manufactured opinions?

As is my style, I’m here to fill in a few of the blanks. Once again, the goal is not to change your mind. I’m just trying to increase the likelihood of having discussions founded on accuracy.

How Big is the Problem?

Never would I downplay the holistic stress of being in debt. I get it. But, for this specific issue: 18 percent of borrowers owe less than $5,000 in student loan debt. Only 6 percent of those with student debt owe more than $100,000. They make up one-third of the outstanding $1.5 trillion of debt.

It’s a problem, sure, but what about all those with medical debt or mortgages or credit card debt accrued due to the conscious destruction of our economy over the past two years?

For context:

  • Student debt has risen in the U.S. for two main reasons: more people attend college now than ever before and college tuition has increased by 169 percent since 1980. As a result, about 14 percent of all American adults report they have outstanding undergraduate student debt.
  • Although the total is much lower than student debt, roughly 50 percent of Americans carry medical debt
  • 43 million U.S. borrowers owe nearly $1.6 trillion altogether in federal student loans
  • The total home mortgage debt is about (wait for it) $10 trillion

Who decides which issues make headlines and which issues get buried by algorithms? .

Who Pays For This Gesture? 

Fourteen percent of Americans carry student loan debt. Then there’s the top 5 percent that pays ZERO taxes. That leaves about 80 percent of Americans to foot the bill while also trying to manage their finances and do more than “just get by.”

Translation: Lower- and middle-class taxpayers will bear the brunt of the student loan forgiveness stunt. Sure, it’s better than paying taxes to fund arms shipments to Neo-Nazi transhumanists in Ukraine but we don’t get to make that choice. Plus, why should we be forced to pay for either?

Side note: People who have already paid off their student debt would now be helping to pay off the student debt of others who didn’t. Where’s the “social justice” in that?

Who Does It Help?

The yearly median income of households with student loans is $76,400. Remind me: Why is this the issue that “progressives” swoon over?

Food stamps serve households with a median income of about $19,000 a year. Half of the recipients live below the poverty but the government only provides $2,300 annually for the average household.

Even if student debt forgiveness was capped at $50,000, that would send an average of $26,000 to eligible households. Meanwhile, families on food stamps would need 11 years to receive that much support. Where’s the #woke crowd on this issue?

Another group that will be helped by student loan forgiveness is colleges and universities. They can raise tuition even more now because they know the taxpayers will assume the financial burden through higher taxes. You might even call it the Academic-Industrial Complex.

This dynamic will result in fewer students being able to go to college in the future and if they try, the debt burden returns so the cycle can start again.

Why Does This Make No Sense?

It made no sense when mom-and-pop stores were shuttered while Target and Wal-Mart stayed open in 2020. It made no sense when you had to wear a mask to enter a restaurant but could take it off once you sat down.

I could go on but remember: It all makes sense to the powers that (shouldn’t) be. Everything being pushed on us is another step toward the Great Reset and other World Economic Forum goals.

In a nutshell: Their goal is to forgive all debt (especially their own, of course) and force us into a digital, cashless, social credit society in which we “own nothing” but “will be happy.”

So, please stop delegating all your energy to media-generated “debates” like student debt, guns, abortion, etc. Use some of that time to instead focus on self-education. Then, armed with knowledge, connect with others who are also dedicated to stopping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

But if you really, really can’t stop yourself from posting about how you do or don’t support student loan forgiveness, can you please at least do a little homework to understand the damn issue? (Scroll up and re-read, for starters.)

The post What do you REALLY know about student loan forgiveness? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Economy of Tolerable Massacres: The Uvalde Shootings

Societies generate their own economies of tolerable cruelties and injustices.  Poverty, for instance, will be allowed, as long a sufficient number of individuals are profiting.  To an extent, crime and violence can be allowed to thrive.  In the United States, the economy of tolerable massacres, executed by military grade weapons, is considerable and seemingly resilient.  Its participants all partake in administering it, playing their bleak roles under the sacred banner of constitutional freedom and psychobabble.

Just as prison reform tends to keep pace with the expansion of the bloated system, the gun argument in the US keeps pace, barely, with each massacre.  With each round of killings, a script is activated: initial horror, hot tears of indignation of never again, and then, the stalemate on reform till the next round of killings can be duly accommodated. “It isn’t enough to reiterate the plain truth that the assault weapons used in mass shootings must be banned and confiscated,” observes Benjamin Kunkel.  “Instead, every fresh atrocity must be recruited into everyone’s preferred single-factor sociological narrative.”

In Uvalde, Texas, a teenage gunman (they do get younger) made his way into an elementary school and delivered an unforgettable May 24 lesson.  When he had finished at Robb Elementary School, 19 children and 2 adults had perished.  But even this effort, in the premier league ranking of school killings, failed to top the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012.  On that occasion, 26 lost their lives.

The horror and indignant tears were duly cued.  President of the United States, Joe Biden: “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?  Why do we keep letting this happen?” he rhetorically intoned at a press conference.  “For every parent, for every citizen in this country, we have to make it clear to every elected official in this country: it’s time to act.”  This would involve the passing of “common sense gun laws” and combating the gun lobby.

The next day, Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated the formula.  “We must work together to create an America where everyone feels safe in their community, where children feel safe in their schools.”

The politicians are duly accompanied by the talking heads, such as Ron Avi Astor, described by NPR as “a mass shooting expert”.  With this unsavoury appellation, we are told that this UCLA professor is puzzled as to why negligible changes to gun laws have taken place since Sandy Hook.  In coping with such puzzlement, he suggests an old academic trick: reframe the problem to lessen its gravity.

With some gusto, Astor proceeds to say that schools in the US have been doing fabulously well in coping with violence – as long as you take the long view. “If you look over the last 20 years, really since Columbine, there’s been a massive, massive, massive … decrease in victimization and violence in schools.”  Diving into the silver lining in his own massive way, he finds “reductions” in violence in the order of 50 to 70 percent.

It never takes long for the economy of tolerable massacres to generate the next round of scrappy arguments, with the corpses barely cold.  The common one is that of shooting frequency.  Was this a good year relative to the last?  This year, the United States has suffered 27.

Since 2018, Education Week, showing how school deaths should very much feature in planning curricula, has taken a grim interest in the whole matter.  Reading its compiled figures – “heartbreaking, but important work”, the journal claims – is much like dipping into stock market returns with the requisite amount of sensitivity.  In 2021, there were 34 school shootings, a real bumper year.  In 2020, it was poor on that front: a modest 10.  Both 2019 and 2018 saw higher returns: 24 each.

If you wish to be entertained by the ghoulish nature of it all, Education Week also gives us some infotainment with a graphic on “Where the Shootings Happened.”  Dots feature on a map of the country.  “The size of the dots correlates to the number of people killed or injured.  Click on each dot for more information.”  Where would we be but for such valuable services?

To give credence to the seemingly immutable nature of this economy on shootings, platoons of commentators, equipped with various skills, argue about responses, most showing that common sense, in this field, is a noble dream.  The conservative National Review takes the view that “tougher background checks” would hardly have worked for the Uvalde shooter.  There was no paper trail flagging him as a threat, nothing to suggest that he should have been prevented as a “legal adult from purchasing a firearm.”  The implicit suggestion here: only nutters kill.

The business of guns is the business of a particular American sensibility.  With the school shooting still fresh, various members of the GOP and Donald Trump affirmed their interest in appearing at a Memorial Day weekend event hosted by the National Rifle Association.  In a statement on the shootings, the NRA expressed its “deepest sympathies” for the families and victims of “this horrific and evil crime” but preferred to describe the killings as the responsibility “of a lone, deranged criminal.”  Leave gun regulation alone; focus on school security instead.

With that brief formality discharged, the NRA expressed its delight at its forthcoming Annual Meetings and Exhibits event to take place at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston between May 27 and May 29.  “The Exhibit Hall is open all three days and will showcase over 14 acres of the latest guns and gear from the most popular companies in the Industry.”  It promises to be fun for the whole family.

Then comes the thorny matter of definitions, a sure way to kill off any sensible action.  From boffin to reactionary, no one can quite accept what a “school shooting” is.  Non-profit outfits such as the New York-based Everytown for Gun Safety include any discharge of a firearm at school as part of the definition.  “In 2022,” the organisation claims, “there were at least 77 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 14 deaths and 45 injuries nationally.”

Everytown for Gun Safety is keen to paint a picture of annual murderous rampage: 3,500 children and teens being shot and killed; 15,000 shot and injured.  Some 3 million children in the US are exposed to shootings each year.

The tone underlying such a message is much at odds with the rest easy approach taken by Astor – what Australians would call the “she’ll be right, mate” caste of mind.  It is certainly Panglossian in nature, aligning with the views of cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, optimist extraordinaire on the human condition.  Taken holistically, he keeps insisting, we live in far better, less violent times than our forebears.  Such massacres as those at Sandy Hook should not be taken to mean that schools have become less safe.  “People always think that violence has increased because they reason from memorable examples rather than global data.”  For Pinker, the 2013 joint survey by the Departments of Justice and Education on such statistics as rates of victimisation since 1992 to non-fatal victimisations was sufficient rebuke against the pessimists and moaners.

The Uvalde massacre will, in time, be absorbed by this economy of tolerable violence.  The anger will dissipate; collective amnesia, if not simple indifference, will exert its dulling sleep.  The dead, except for the personally affected, will go the way of others, buried in the confetti and scrapings of statistics.

The post The Economy of Tolerable Massacres: The Uvalde Shootings first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Chicago: Charter Schools Suspend and Expel Minority Students at Extremely High Rates

Privatization transfers public funds, assets, and authority from the public sector to the private sector. This typically erodes the voice of workers, increases corruption, lowers accountability, raises costs, fragments services, undermines flexibility, diminishes transparency, reduces efficiency, decreases the quality of services, and intensifies inequality.

By removing socially-produced value from the economy and further concentrating it in the hands of private competing interests, privatization ultimately harms the economy, undermines the national interest, and enriches a handful of people at the expense of the public. The public would benefit vastly more if the wealth produced by workers stayed in the hands of workers and in the public purse. Socially-produced wealth could then be used to serve the common good. For its part, the United Nations reminds us that privatization violates human rights and devalues the public interest.

While practically every sector is being rapidly privatized at home and abroad, privately-operated charter schools are the main expression of privatization in the sphere of education in the U.S. These outsourced privatized schools siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools and seize many public school assets and facilities for next to nothing. In this connection, every week the news is filled with stories about corruption, fraud, and arrests in the crisis-prone charter school sector. Thousands of such stories can be found at the Network for Public Education.

Even though they are called “public schools of choice open to all,” privately-operated charter schools are notorious for routinely cherry-picking students through a variety of mechanisms, including suspending and expelling poor and low-income black and brown students at extremely high rates, including kindergarteners. It is well-documented that privately-operated charter schools intensify segregation and few are truly diverse (see here, here, and here). The charter school sector is more segregated than the public school sector. New York City, for example, is home to some of the most intensely segregated charter schools in the nation (see here and here). It is also worth noting that all charter schools in the U.S. are run by unelected individuals, generally employ fewer experienced teachers than public schools, and regularly perform poorly. In addition, charter schools tend to pay teachers less than their public school counterparts and hire fewer nurses than public schools.

Chicago is home to more than 100 privately-operated charter schools but it is not the only city in America full of charter schools that suspend and expel poor and low-income black and brown students at much higher rates than public schools. 1 For example, Legal Prep Charter Academy, “which is about 99% Black, issued 190 out-of-school suspensions during the 2019-2020 school year. Community organizers and students say the harsh discipline tactics make students less engaged with school and feel unwanted.” This means that Legal Prep Charter Academy, “suspended students at a higher rate than any other school in Chicago.” The school also “issued 13 expulsions during the 2019-2020 school year, meaning almost one out of every 20 students was expelled.” Not surprisingly, Legal Prep Charter Academy is in legal trouble on other fronts as well. In the U.S., “no-excuses” charter schools have come under heavy criticism over the years for their harsh consequences, antisocial policies, and authoritarian practices.

Even during the height of the covid pandemic:

the [Chicago] district’s charters issued an average of 130 suspensions per 1,000 students. (Students can be suspended multiple times). That rate is nearly five times that of non-charter schools in Chicago, according to new analysis of disciplinary data obtained online from the Illinois State Board of Education and Chicago Public Schools. (emphasis added)

According to the same source, expulsions have been going on for years:

Of the schools in Chicago issuing the highest number of expulsions in 2019-2020, eight of the top 10 schools were charter schools, according to data from the Illinois State Board of Education. In 2018-2019, all 10 were charters. Legal Prep was on both of those lists.

To be sure, charter school suspensions and expulsions is a long-standing national problem. Charter schools do not accept or retain all students. Many students pushed out of charter schools return to their home public school.2 Chalkbeat noted in 2015 that New York City charter schools also suspended students at a much higher rate than the city’s public schools. On a national scale, a 2016 study by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that charter schools suspended a range of students at higher rates than public schools. The report, which examined more than 5,000 charter schools across the country, also stressed the intensely segregated nature of charter schools. It is well-known that students who are suspended and expelled at high rates are more likely to become part of the school-to-prison pipeline.

Unlike privately-operated charter schools, public schools accept all students at all times and have far fewer suspensions and expulsions; they are not as heavy-handed as charter schools. Charter schools are deregulated schools, which means that they are exempt from many public standards, laws, and rules. Deregulation is a key feature of the privatization agenda of neoliberals. This “autonomy” and “freedom” allows charter schools to engage in punitive practices in the name of “innovation” and “high expectations.” In practice, privatization incentivizes both nonprofit and for-profit charter schools to cherry-pick students, cut corners, and underinvest. Privatization does the same in other sectors as well, resulting in a lowering of the level of society and the economy.

Despite efforts to reduce extremely high suspension and expulsion rates, charter schools in Chicago and elsewhere are not known for vigorously embracing sustained pro-social improvements, let alone on a broad and rapid scale. They cannot do so because they operate mainly as profit-maximizing private enterprises, regardless of whether they are classified as nonprofit or for-profit schools. Profit maximization and human social responsibilities like education do not go together; they negate each other. The notion that the broad aim of the public can be reconciled and harmonized with the narrow aim of owners of capital is straightforward disinformation; they are contradictory aims.

Many have publicly stated that cashing in on kids is immoral and self-serving. In theory and practice, justice cannot be upheld or restored in entities set up to operate on the basis of individualism, consumerism, competition, the “free market,” and exclusionary practices. Privatization is designed for profit, not equity or justice. Privatization fosters exclusion and a hierarchy of rights, not the opposite. In legal, philosophical, operational, and other ways, charter schools are set up very differently from public schools. It is problematic to even compare them or to call charter schools public schools. Charter schools and public schools are apples and oranges.

A modern public education system in a society based on mass industrial production can and must be world-class, fully-funded, inclusive, universal, non-punitive, publicly controlled, and never allowed to fall into the hands of private interests. Owners of capital have no legitimate claim to public funds, assets, or enterprises because these all belong to the public and are meant to serve the common good, not the narrow aim of profit maximization.

There are roughly 100,000 public schools and approximately 7,500 privately-operated charter schools in the United States. Around 3.4 million students attend charter schools and about 50 million youth—90% of students—attend public schools. Roughly 150-250 charter schools close every year due to financial malfeasance, mismanagement, or poor academic performance, leaving many poor and low-income minority families out in the cold. Despite the oft-repeated promise of better results for students and schools, about 5,000 charter schools have closed in the U.S. over the course of nearly 31 years.

  1. It is critical to appreciate (1) that charter schools in Chicago came about by closing dozens of public schools in the city and that (2) the closure of public schools in mainly Black communities has caused harm on many levels (see here).
  2. It is important to appreciate that charter schools choose parents and students, not the other way around.
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Make Noise about the Silent Crisis of Global Illiteracy

Amadou Sanogo (Mali), Je pense de ma tête, 2016.

Amadou Sanogo (Mali), Je pense de ma tête, 2016.

In October 2021, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) held a seminar on the pandemic and education systems. Strikingly, 99% of the students in the region spent an entire academic year with total or partial interruption of face-to-face classes, while more than 600,000 children struggled with the loss of their caregivers due to the pandemic. It is further estimated that the crisis could force 3.1 million children and youth to drop out of school and force over 300,000 to go to work. At the seminar, Alicia Bárcena, the executive secretary of ECLAC, said that the combination of the pandemic, economic turbulence in the region, and the setbacks in education have caused ‘a silent crisis’.

The situation around the world is equally dire, with the phrase ‘silent crisis’ perhaps in need of a more global application. The United Nations notes that ‘more than 1.5 billion students and youth across the planet are or have been affected by school and university closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic’; at least 1 billion school children are at risk of falling behind in their studies. ‘[T]hose in poorer households’, the UN said, ‘do not have internet access, personal computers, TVs or even radios at home, amplifying the effects of existing learning inequalities’. Close to one third of all children – at least 463 million – do not have any access to technologies for remote education; three out of four of these children come from rural areas, most of them from the very poorest households. Because of the school closures during the lockdowns and the lack of infrastructure for online learning, many children ‘face the risk of never returning to school, undoing years of progress made in education around the world’.

Mao Xuhui (China), I Leave the Trace of Wings in the Air, 2014–2017.

Mao Xuhui (China), I Leave the Trace of Wings in the Air, 2014–2017.

In 2015, the 193 member states of the United Nations agreed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, setting seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be met within fifteen years. The entire SDG process, which began as the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty in 2000, had widespread consensus. The fourth SDG is to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. As part of the process to advance this goal, the UN and World Bank jointly developed a concept called ‘learning poverty’, defined as ‘being unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10’. The ‘learning poverty’ measure applies to 53% of children in low and middle-income countries and up to 80% of children in poor countries. Before the pandemic, it was clear that by 2030 the SDG aspirations would not have been met for 43% of the world’s children. The United Nations now reports that in 2020 an additional 101 million or 9% of children in classes 1 to 8 ‘fell below minimum reading proficiency levels’ and that the pandemic has ‘wiped out the education gains achieved over the past 20 years’. It is now universally recognised that the fourth SDG will be unrealisable for a very long time.

Said Aniff Hossanee (Mauritius), The Thinker, 2020.

Said Aniff Hossanee (Mauritius), The Thinker, 2020.

The UN and World Bank have sounded the alarm that this ‘silent crisis’ will have a devastating impact on the economic future of students. They estimate that ‘this generation of children now risks losing $17 trillion in lifetime earnings in present value, or about 14% of today’s global GDP, because of COVID-19 related school closures and economic shocks’. Not only are the students going to lose trillions of dollars in lifetime earnings, but they are also going to be deprived of social, cultural, and intellectual wisdom and skills vital to the advancement of humanity.

Already, education institutions from the early years into college emphasise the commercialisation of education. The decline of basic training in the humanities has become a global problem, depriving the world’s population of a grounding in history, sociology, literature, and the arts, which create a richer understanding of what it means to live in a society and to be a citizen of the world. This kind of education is an antidote to the toxic forms of jingoism and xenophobia that have us goose-stepping our way to annihilation and extinction.

Cultural institutions are in the deepest of trouble in the ‘silent crisis’. A UNESCO study on the impact of the pandemic on 104,000 museums around the world found that almost half of these institutions experienced a significant reduction in public funding in 2020, with limited gains the following year. Partly due to lockdowns and partly due to the funding problems, attendance at the world’s most popular art museums declined by 77% in 2020. In addition to the pandemic, the rise of platform capitalism – economic activity that is rooted in Internet-based platforms – has accelerated the privatisation of cultural consumption, with public forms of cultural exposure through public education, public museums and galleries, and public concerts unable to keep pace with Netflix and Spotify. That only 29% of the people in sub-Saharan Africa have internet access makes the inequities of cultural life an even more pressing concern.

Wycliffe Mundopa (Zimbabwe), Easy Afternoon, 2020.

Wycliffe Mundopa (Zimbabwe), Easy Afternoon, 2020.

The way teachers have been treated during the pandemic illustrates the low level of importance given to this crucial job and education more broadly in our global society. Only in 19 countries were teachers placed in the first priority group with frontline workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Over the course of the past few weeks, this newsletter has highlighted A Plan to Save the Planet, which we developed alongside 26 research institutes from around the world under the leadership of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – People’s Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP). We will continue to point to that text because it significantly challenges the status quo view of how we need to proceed in our shared global struggles. When it comes to education, for instance, we are building our framework for the planet based on the needs of teachers and students and not centrally on the GDP or the value of money. On education, we have a list of eleven demands – not comprehensive, but suggestive. You can read them here.

Please read the plan carefully. We look forward to your interventions, which we hope you will send to us at gro.latnenitnocirtehtnull@nalp. If you find these ideas useful, please circulate them widely. If you wonder about how we propose to finance these ideas, please have a look at the full plan (there is, by the way, at least $37 trillion currently sitting in illicit tax havens).

In Honduras, steps are being taken in this direction. On 27 January, President Xiomara Castro took the reins, becoming the first female head of government in the country’s history. She immediately pledged to give free electricity to more than one million of the nearly ten million people in Honduras. This will enhance the ability of the poorest Hondurans to expand their cultural horizons and increase the chances of children being able to participate in online learning during the pandemic. On the day of President Castro’s inauguration, I read the beautiful words of the Nicaraguan-Salvadorean poet Claribel Alegría, whose commitment to the advancement of the people of Central America comes across in her brilliant poems. In 1978, just before the Nicaraguan Revolution, Alegría won the Casa de las Américas Prize for her collection Sobrevivo (‘I Survive’). With D. J. Flakoll, she wrote the definitive history of the Sandinista Revolution, Nicaragua, la revolución sandinista: una crónica política 1855-1979 (‘The Sandinista Revolution – a Political Chronicle, 1855–1979’), published in 1982. The fragment of her poem Contabilizando (‘Accounting’) in her book Fugues (1993) teaches us of the importance of poetry and epiphany and of the importance that dreaming and hope hold for human advancement:

I don’t know how many years
dreaming of my people’s liberation
certain immortal deaths
the eyes of that starving child
your eyes bathing me with love
one forget-me-not afternoon
and in this sultry hour
the urge to mould myself
into a verse
a shout
a fleck of foam.

The post Make Noise about the Silent Crisis of Global Illiteracy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Twenty Years of Teaching Science in Public School Down the Covid Drain

These are snooping, snitching, massive canceling, censorious times.

I just talked with a friend who is in San Francisco who has been working hard as a science teacher. He has opened up the curriculum, has worked to be in his school’s union and he has just gotten married. That’s 55, now, and he has to step down from teaching since the school teacher mandates for California are going into effect January 4 or thereabouts.

He might be against mandates because a mandate is oppressive, a dead-end to critical thinking, critical engagement. The mandates, the masking, the social distancing, the forced PCR tests, the constant fear-fear-fear. He sees what this has done to teaching, teachers, students and staff.

But the cat is out of the bag, because the National Union and his state union all are on the same sheet of Moderna-Pfizer-Fauci music. For a science nerd, someone who ended up in physics at Harvard, who has undertaken teaching high school students science, including physics, well having a one size fits all formula,  without a scientific robust challenge to any theory, sticks in his craw.

Criminalizing thought, that’s what this Planned Pandemic is about: no pushback. We have talked, and I have been the liberal arts dude, with some notion that critical thinking can only be gained from liberal arts within the system of education. STEM is fine, but not in a vacuum. How we got here, today, how we are products of the history of everything.

Here, Hedges and Lowkey, and I am not sure of Hedges’ position on the vaccination mandates, and Lowkey, well, who knows. But the interview is powerful in that both talk about the prison industrial complex, and about education, and about deep thinking, truly. Literacy beyond being a serf of the ruling class and the warehouse employment class system.

Education as a key component of resistence.  Resistence and pushing back on the corporate, elite paradigms. And some of those elites and oppressive paradigms are in academe/academia.

The discussion of topics in science is also something we talked about, how there are off-limits discussion, and we talked about how teachers in the old days, if they were valuable and valiant and honorable and truly mentors, that they were honored. That students and parents looked at teachers as guides, as facilitators of inquiry, learning. Showing the stepping stones to life-long learning. As elements in the pathway from youth to participatory democracy. Giving an open hand to youth as a place of dissident thinking.

But the pressure from this gentleman’s school district, the union, the honchos, is to vax up, mask up, and booster up. Schools, where the least vulnerable are being forced to take not one, not two, but many shots in this grand experiment of the SARS-MERS-CoV2-DARPA kind.

As if refusing to get a vaccination, when he is healthy, and capable of doing his own health screens at home. Imagine, how much the landscape of the Delta, Omicron and now Omega-crons have changed. How it is now a cold, or where oh where do the variants go? The seesaw, yo-yo, 180-degree turnaround of the science. Follow the science.

And he is not going to be forced to vax. And, his 20 years teaching in public school is now ended. i am not sure how much he gets from the 20 year “pension/retirement,” but he states it’s like collecting his unemployment. He has just taken a job at a very very small school.

Charter school, a tuition free charter school covering 7th and 8th grades. Two hundred students. Mostly African-American and Latinx youth. And, my friend says, right now, there is a don’t ask, don’t tell approach to Corona Madness.

You know, no mask mandates, but option. No tracking of health records. No mandates for jabs.

Yet. This is December 30, 2021. The courts have ruled against workers, and the mandates for businesses in places like WA, OR and CA are about to go wide and far. So, he is now ending his public education career.

Newly married, my friend is thinking that he is only biding his time. That the charter school, private, with parents and youth, BIPOC, and in liberal (sic) San Fran-Oakland area will be subject to the mandates.

He thought he’d be retiring at 62 with a semi-decent pension. He doesn’t want to leave the Bay area because he has to. He knows the clock is ticking. He talks of creating a pod of other like-minded teachers to open up a free school. Tutoring.

He knows that I look at things asymetrically. That the reality is this is a universal vaccination, testing, digital dashboard (health, banking, jobs, education, purchases, etc)  future. You can’t get a job without being a member of the test-shot-record-big data frame. No subsidized housing without test-shot-record-big data. Proof of life, test-shot-record-big data frame, for your college course. This proof of compliance, test-shot-record-big data frame, for getting health insurance. Move this test-shot-record-big data frame to car insurance, even getting a driver’s license. Social seruit? Proof of this test-shot-record-big data cohersion compliance.

And, what if these smart students ask my smart friend, their teacher, about virus research, about big tech, about the politics of climate change, and, well, about other things that might go contrary to the test-shot-record-big data frame of things? Questioning any number of paradigms and theories and cultural expectations and prejudices and blind spots? And, these youth, many want to know what they should do after high school. How many will go from a charter school to a public school? How will they navigate mandates? And, what about what to major in if they go to college? Would all those years of school, from age 6 to 22, or to 24 or 28, be worth it? What is the value of things now and what about the future?

We talked about how young people this age want answers, want leaders, want direction, demand options and want to work with alternative solutions to today’s problems, and we know today’s supposed solutions will be problems of tomorrow.

Even questions about climate change, globalization, and where this CoV2 came from. Lab experiment gone bad? Intentional outbreak? These youth are smart.

Elaine DeWar

These kids want answers, and they want to rumble in the jungle, truly, with smart teachers willing to take risks, willing to lead.  Yet, we are in sniping times. We are in superficial thinking times. Black v. White times.

So where oh where do we go with teaching, and now, Charter Schools, and that is one messed up economic and education and investment model in most cases — Dissident Voice, Shawgi Tell!

He talked about getting farther away from urban centers, into red counties, red states, as a way to insulate himself from the inevitable. He is a Marxist, and that has been his huge disappointment — how the left has abandoned questioning authority, science, elites, agendas, mass media, propaganda, prevailing commercial interests, and more!

Of course, we could be dealing with Ayotzinapa, and the Mexican oligarchs and narcos and others hating these rural normal colleges where young people go to learn how to teach in order to teach youth and communities  how to stand up to the powers. Resistance. Worker rights. Land rights!

Mexico: Documentary looks at lives of 43 missing Ayotzinapa students — A documentary will premier this week at Mexico City’s Cineteca Nacional on the lives of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students. Filmmaker Rafael Rangel says that the full-length documentary, “A Day in Ayotzinapa 43”, featuring first hand accounts of the events and interviews with classmates and family members of the disappeared students, aims to boost awareness of another reality of Mexico that often remains hidden from the broader public.

The petition, which already has more than 1,650 signatures, aims to ensure that the "truth prevails" and that respect is shown to the "memory of the fallen, the injured ... the parents, mothers, sons, daughters, wives, brothers, sisters, friends, colleagues, and for all those who were directly or indirectly affected by that tragic night." EFE/File

So it goes — we can always find other people’s realities much more dramatically harsh than our own. And, teachers get these shots for other things, and, well, there is so much swirling around about how the bat virus got to this highly infectious state, who had the blood and feces of people who got infected almost a decade ago, who was funding the gain of function research. So so much, here, rightly set straight into a world of skepticism.

But, all of them in on it — the vaccination paranoia is real, and the stories, well, we are in a time of shut down, zero critical thinking, echo chambers, and this is a military propaganda campaign.

How many more shots are we to take now that we are in this Virus World?

Here, Sonia Shah, who I interviewed several times in person in Spokane on the stage and in my radio studio. We are talking January 2020. This is a time capsule moment, since so much has changed in two years:

The number of coronavirus cases has overtaken that of the 2003 SARS epidemic. Officials and scientists are racing to track the path of the virus and develop a vaccine. Twenty-two countries have reported finding people sickened with the virus. The WHO has announced a “public health emergency of international concern.”

We’re in a relatively new era of infectious disease outbreak, said prominent science journalist Sonia Shah. Diseases are sequenced faster and tracked more accurately than ever before – but they also arise more frequently, as humankind and nature collide often and with greater intensity.

Shah knows her way around infectious disease outbreaks – along with the public health, epidemiology, and social consequences surrounding them. She’s the author of the 2010 book The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, along with 2016’s Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond.

She sat down with Direct Relief this week to talk about the likely scope of the coronavirus outbreak, the public health response – and the potential impacts.

Direct Relief: Your book, Pandemic, is a look at the major contagious disease outbreaks of modern history, including Ebola, MERS, and SARS. Considering what you’ve seen so far, how does the new coronavirus outbreak compare to other infectious disease outbreaks – in transmission, scope, or public perception?

Shah: It’s obviously one that’s causing a lot of alarm, and there’s been a very vigorous public health response, so in some ways that makes it unusual. There are a lot of outbreaks of a disease where you don’t see a big public health response, so I think that’s actually a positive.

China is doing a lot to contain it. And I think you can debate whether all those measures are worthwhile or not, but there’s no lack of attention to this outbreak.

Direct Relief: How are the epidemics of modern history different from those of, say, the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic? Why are there more frequent disease outbreaks, and what are the challenges of fighting them in the modern world?

Shah: About 60% of these new pathogens that we’re seeing, that have come out in the last 50 years or so, they derive from the bodies of animals. About 70% of those derive from the bodies of wild animals.

And that’s because people and wild animals are coming into novel, intimate contact. That allows the microbes that live in their bodies to cross over into our bodies.

Ebola, Zika virus, SARS, West Nile virus – there are any number of novel pathogens that have emerged in the past few decades that come from the bodies of animals.

Animals and people are coming into new kinds of contact because of a variety of reasons, the biggest one being that we are essentially destroying so much wildlife habitat.

What that means is a lot of animals are going extinct, but the ones that remain have to crowd into ever-tightening little patches of habitat that we leave for them. That’s more frequently not in some distant, intact forest. Instead, it’s our farms and gardens and our towns and cities.

Direct Relief: Are we better at fighting infectious disease over the past couple of decades?

Shah: I think there are some ways in which we’re getting better. The fact that we had a diagnostic for this new coronavirus so fast, that’s amazing, and that means that you can track it.

I think in terms of scientific collaboration, discovery of how these pathogens work, diagnostics, and genotyping, those are happening a lot faster now as the technology gets better. We just have so much more knowledge.

But then I think there are valid questions to be asked about whether we’re using that knowledge effectively. Just because we can know that this novel coronavirus is causing this pneumonia – not some other pathogen – is that actually helping us to contain it, or not?

I don’t think we know the answer to that question yet, and we won’t for some years, until after this whole thing blows over and we have time to analyze how it went down.

We saw this in Haiti with the cholera outbreak after the [2010] earthquake. Cell phones were relatively new at the time and it was possible for people to map how cholera was spreading just based on cell phone data.

They could see, “OK, it’s coming down this road, it’s going to be going down this trucking route, it’s probably going to lead to this village in the next week or two.”

All of that…was amazing, scientifically, but it didn’t actually help anyone prevent cholera from breaking out. We knew it was coming, but it happened anyway.

Direct Relief: Why do you think this virus has inspired such a media frenzy and such widespread fear?

Shah: I think there are some good reasons. One is that it’s similar to SARS – it’s a coronavirus, like SARS – and we know that SARS was very virulent and it spread pretty well and it got pretty far. It got to dozens of countries really rapidly and killed 800 people, and this virus is in the same family.

That said, it’s a pretty big family. There are some coronaviruses that are very mild and some that are very virulent, so just the fact that it’s in that family of viruses doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to kill a lot of people.

And I think the other good reason is that it’s respiratory. There isn’t a lot of evidence that we know how to control the spread of respiratory illnesses. Seasonal flus every year take out hundreds of thousands of people.

We try. We have vaccines, we tell people to wash their hands, we tell people to stay home when they’re sick. Do they make any headway at all? It’s hard to know. With the huge scale of flu every year, it would be hard to argue that those measures actually work.

Direct Relief: If coronavirus continues to spread into a pandemic on the level of SARS, what are the likely long-term economic and social impacts?

Shah: There’s going to be huge economic fallout from this. It’s only just starting. SARS had a huge economic impact, and that wasn’t nearly as widespread as this thing will probably be. China is clamping down on its trade routes and travel routes. How do you function in a global economy without China? We don’t know.

All of these outbreaks, when they go global, just show us again and again how interconnected we are, and how much we really rely on each other for all of our essential services.

Direct Relief: Why do you say it’s going to be bigger than SARS?

Shah: Well, because it’s only just starting. New outbreaks are being seeded right now. We know 5 million people left Wuhan before the travel restrictions were put into place, and that’s a lot of people.

Each of those people could seed new outbreaks if they are carrying the virus, and I think we’re seeing the first signs of that.

It appears to be carried by people who are non-symptomatic. That means it’s going to be really hard to contain it. I don’t think we’re anywhere near the peak or end of this thing. If it goes on on the current trajectory it’s going to be bigger than SARS.

[The virus is] not necessarily more deadly. It always seems more virulent at the beginning, because all you see are the worst cases. So as we get more information, it will probably become clear to us that it’s less virulent than we originally thought, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a huge toll.

Because if something’s really catchy, even if it’s only slightly more deadly than a regular flu or respiratory illness that we’re used to, a lot of people can get sick and can die.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Science, and science journalists. Interesting — “The Coronavirus in Context: A Q&A with Sonia Shah, Author of Pandemic

 

Sonia Shah delivering a TEDMED talk. (Photo courtesy of Sonia Shah)

How does my friend field questions from youth who are on the Internet, who are on social media and the dark web and so on? How does the world shape up with all these curriculum controls, when at times, our times seem chaotic, and fearful? Youth are directionless. Attacked by Democrats and Republicans.

Biggest issues with youth is “the GAD” — generalized anxiety disorder. Big problems with the dirty water, dirty air, polluted food, contaminated oceans and repulsive airwaves and entertainment rackets.

My friend is on his journey, and he is fighting for his small family’s survival. This is not what many of us thought would play out in our lives in our 50s and 60s, but in reality Western Lives/Western Culture/Western Privilege has come at a price — all those billions of people we have stolen futures from. Capitalism. Rapacious consumerism. Rapacious tourism. Wars, war machines, subjugation by proxy.

From 10 years ago — Haeder and Real Change News, Seattle!

Drawing on Plato and Malcom X, West said the death process is part of real education — paideia — a concept developed by Socrates that means deep, critical thinking.

It is the antithesis of contemporary culture: “The problem in American society is we are a culture of death-denying, death-dodging… a joyless culture where pleasure-seeking replaces what it means to be human.”

Fresh from a trip to Occupy Seattle earlier in the day, West praised the movement, which he said represents “a deep democratic awakening where people are finding the courage to find their voice.”

Greed has corroded society, he said.

“Market moralities and mentalities — fueled by economic imperatives to make a profit at nearly any cost — yield unprecedented levels of loneliness, isolation and sadness. Our public life lies in shambles, shot through with icy cynicism and paralyzing pessimism. To put it bluntly, beneath the record-breaking stock markets on Wall Street and bipartisan budget-balancing deals in the White House, lurk ominous clouds of despair across this nation.”

West said that in this age of fear, economic instability and employment challenges, young people must learn “to have a love of wisdom, love of your neighbors and love of justice.”

Such love, embedded in our cultural and social justice traditions, is powerful, he said.

“That Coltrane love, that subversive love. It’s there in the Occupy Wall Street movement. … When it’s organized and mobilized, love is a threat.”

Alas, privatizing schools, for investment and control, especially children, BIPOC, to militarize and technotize their minds, is the goal. Check out this site: Network for Public Education!

And, here, again, Alison McDowell, on monetizing poverty, struggle, students, for not just social control, but Internet of Bodies control.

The post Twenty Years of Teaching Science in Public School Down the Covid Drain first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Columbia “Strike”: A Merry-go-Round to Nowhere?

I can still vividly recall, some thirty-plus years later, my days at Columbia University as a Teaching Assistant (TA) in Anthropology.  As a part-time job, it paid little–but nonetheless provided complete tuition-exemption for those of us still registered as full-time grad students.  The lecture-hall was more like an auditorium: maybe 200 students taking a survey course on “Human Origins” (a course which I was later to teach there).  The professor would drone on-and-on, his pedantic style often inducing somnolence rather than fascination with the subject.  Later in the day, we TAs would meet with our “discussion sections”; i.e., students who chose to show up for some informal tutoring in the material.

Grading essay exams, both mid-terms and finals, was the most critical task of this part-time job–and we prepared ourselves for a few late-nights of reading endless “bluebooks.”  It was especially critical to carefully and fairly grade all the finals in an expeditious manner, so that the undergrads could receive a final grade for the course.  In that light, I’m more than a little uneasy with the present tactic of Columbia’s TA strikers–refusing to show up to do the grading, and/or withholding the grades until their demands are met.  Their grievances, real enough (if relatively minor), certainly deserve more negotiations.  But, as a former UAW/Ford auto worker–as I worked my way through college–I fear that the TAs are getting bad advice from the union (which probably has little to lose by conducting such “experiments”).  As far as preserving good-paying jobs nationally, the UAW has a fairly abysmal record.

I fear, moreover, that the TAs have a lot to lose.  I have no doubt that the Columbia administrators–like their peers on other campuses–are already looking for substitutes to perform the grading and related duties. In any event, in the near-future automation, always looming to de-skill mere humans, will no doubt include the grading systems, even of essay exams.  (Such technology apparently already exists.)

Like other “elite” graduate programs, Columbia’s GSAS provides a current breakdown of the costs of attending for one year: about $50,000 “tuition” (which, yes, means “instruction” — however elusive that may be), some $22,000 for “room-and-board,” and maybe $5-10,000 more for various sundries.  Equalling about $80,000 or so.  Students renting their own off-campus digs are, of course, paying more.  Overall, an astounding cost: and for what?

Relentless marketing over many generations can do wonders.  Think of the sacrosanct hush, the reverential kowtowing, evoked (knee-jerk style) by this magical mantra…”Harvard.”  Or, to an only slightly lesser degree, the “accreditational aura” conjured up by …Yale…Princeton…Columbia.  Yet, when the reality is experienced–what a letdown!  The callow undergrad is often simply overwhelmed by the arbitrary requirements and arcane readings–not to mention the sheer impersonality–of such elite “meccas of learning.”  The prospective Ph.D., “accepted” by such an elite bastion as Columbia GSAS, quickly seeks a “mentor” (advisor)–and preferably an up-and-coming “hot” commodity riding the wave of the latest intellectual fad (or craze, if you prefer).  Ideally, such a sponsor is plugged into a network of rising stars who might serve as contacts and “references” in the future.  Whether these “cutting-edge” scholars are often little more than poseurs and charlatans–especially in such fields as comparative literature and gender studies–is beside the point.  One is not seeking to advance human knowledge and enlightenment, one is seeking A JOB; i.e., a prestigious appointment on the tenure-track! 

The doctoral candidate thus willingly goes through an interminable rite-of-passage–characterized by mystifying ordeals and punishments–and finally emerges…as what?  Perhaps as someone whose most conspicuous achievement was to have exhaustively written about a topic so insignificant that the endless legions of previous scholars had no trouble overlooking it.  Yet upon graduation, the incredible scarcity of such tenure-track positions must be fiercely combatted by the aforesaid relentless networking — as well as by the relentless padding of one’s CV with “presentations given,” “comments on” Foucault’s footnote, “notes toward a theory of (something or other),” ad infinitum.

But a successful job search also requires considerable skill in “impression management.”  Having carefully balanced a well-measured sycophantism with maybe just a dash of unthreatening “originality,” the ambitious young academic makes sure to project a blandly reassuring mediocrity, sure to please each-and-every member of the prestigious Department’s Search Committee!  Then–hooray (well, almost!): if the Dean and the Provost and Assistant Dean for Harmonious Relations all approve–and, yes, the President, as well as the Legal Department–then one is now…an Assistant Professor!!

I’ll admit it: although I was committed to choosing specializations and writing articles that I truly believed in, I was as susceptible to the frantic “desire to succeed” as most others.  Way back when, I got a call from a prestigious professor who “sat” on one of those prestigious inter-disciplinary “Committees” at the University of Chicago.  Fly out immediately!  It’s between you and another fellow–a coveted Mellon Lecturership in Social Science!  (Little did I know who the hell (the sinister) Andrew Mellon was.)  When I arrived at my hotel, very late that night, I found a huge ream of course materials–all regarding the courses I would be expected to teach in the coming semester.

Since I spent the early morning hours plowing through the stuff, I was quite groggy when, at 9:00 a.m., I began my pilgrimage, Kafka-like, from office to office–meeting the innumerable taciturn and unprepossessing colleagues with whom I would be expected to work.  Finally, at a late lunch, I met the Dean and several other professors–all of whom proceeded to ask me guarded yet probing questions.  Apparently, I was a socialist–after all, my CV listed articles in Dialectical Anthropology.  But was I also somehow a “conservative”?  After all, I had published a book and several papers on Freudian (well, neo-Freudian) topics, and hadn’t Women’s Studies scholars entirely discredited Freudian theories?  (My book Riddles of Eros, in fact, adopts a radical-feminist perspective on liberated female sexuality.)  The Dean suddenly became wary–and when I casually mentioned that I admired some of the points made by his colleague Allan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind (1987), he went ballistic: “Bloom is insulting to our students!”  He then left the table in a fury.  The other four professors remained conspicuously silent, staring into their coffee cups (or was it cocktails?).  When he returned, ten minutes later, he announced that the interview was over, and that I could go outside to the curb, where a limousine would arrive momentarily to whisk me back to the airport.  This whole episode, way back when, was most instructive to me–about petty dictators attracted to the exercise of arbitrary fiats.  The priceless irony: I had believed, naively enough, that a university is a sanctuary for–intellectual freedom!

But to return to the current situation at Columbia.  To my mind, many contradictions abound.  The graduate students, knowing full well that neither they nor the hapless undergrads are getting high-quality skillful teaching (especially from the elite profs who, when they deign to stand in front of an undergrad lectern, are usually more interested in dazzling and intimidating the young students than helping them and inspiring them to love the pursuit of humanly-valuable knowledge).

Moreover, these grad students, aware of Columbia’s obscenely massive treasure-chest (investment portfolio of some $14 billion, which increased $3 billion or so in just the past year), are in effect saying: we deserve some of that!  Sure, it’s only a part-time job with little skill required, and we do enjoy a tuition-exemption (as well as a below market-rate apartment rental), but…it’s expensive to live in NYC!  And we need decent dental insurance!  Few, despite their often pro-Bernie sentiments, seem willing to commute from, say, cheaper neighborhoods in the Bronx (or from working-class New Jersey, as I did).

By contrast, in past decades Columbia protest-organizers focused first and foremost on the corrupt, amoral nature of Columbia’s investments (fossil fuels, armaments, nuclear power, apartheid South Africa).  Or, going back even further (1968): Columbia activists were certainly in earnest when they kicked out profs doing Pentagon-funded research from their offices.  In those days, before the baton-wielding police arrived, the student-activists were actually able to shut down university operations entirely.  Why? To try to force the university to abandon its ongoing expansion plan of tearing-down adjacent tenement buildings in Harlem.  Today, with the urban poor more isolated and beleaguered than ever, one can only wonder how many of the current Columbia graduate “workers” — their (often) progressive political attitudes notwithstanding–would even dare to venture the several blocks into those Harlem streets.

The post The Columbia “Strike”: A Merry-go-Round to Nowhere? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Collusion: The End of Nature, Brought to us by Zoom

The only way to break through a totalitarian (lite) thinking is to continue using blunt force, or airy force, to expose this massive experiment in turning Americans into screen dwellers. The new ghetto is the screen.

The lockdown might be lifted, physically, for the Covdians, but in the minds of these people, the world is now shifting to the high tech, fiber optic, 5G/6G satellite-directed world.

Imagine this event, on the ecosystems of my area, now, a virtual event. It is embarrassing that science-minded people want public and community participation over zoom. No depth to why it has to be “virtual,” and no apologies for being so dense.

Or, are they dense? Are they loving this hybrid, virtual, remote work mentality? You know, I was just interviewed by the State of Oregon for a state job. The thing was on Zoom, and there were three there and me here. One question was around “how would you make virtual meetings and intakes more engaging . . . . ?” This is the new normal, alas, and this huge shift of bricks and mortar life, into the AI void, and with these huge (massive) transfers of trillions to a very few felons of the elite class, these scientists who have grants and faculty positions and tenure, they will not lead the way anywhere.

And their world is all fancy web-based crap, like cool photos, imaginary graphics, all compressed and collected to make people say, “Oh, isn’t it wonderful how wonderful the scientists working in the wonderful natural world are!!’

 

In this Greta-and-Company-Can-Fly-to-GLasgow-to-Protest-Their-Governments’-Fossil-Fuel-Lunacy, many people I know are so happy now that Zoom is a fixture in their lives, and that they do not have to brave the Highway 101, or the weather, or the climate warnings. These people who might be interested in ecology and marine preserves and environmental policy are usually on the left trough of the manure pile of politics called Democrats. They are, of course, the new Brown Shirts, but call them Green Shirts, or Zoom Shirts. Their world, and the one they are ushering in since youth, have no say in how things SHOULD be run. It is not a real world, but one that is full of maps and podcasts and TED Talks and faux interactive chats and Zooms:

We are talking about 14 square miles designated as a marine reserve. Then some overflow for seabird protection area. This is, again, embarrassing. There is an interpretive center at Cape Perpetua, one that I have been at for in-person events. There are parking spaces. There are so many ways these great thinkers and planners could have organized an in-person event, even with their defective masks and asinine social distancing. That, my friends, will not happen. More and more youth are getting more and more skills with the mouse, the CAD programs, with Publisher and Photoshop. Their world is a world where billionaires own everything, and living in a van with full bed, TV, running water, hell, that is what youth are going to be having to accept as more and more dictatorial thinkers run the world, run events, run programs and educational frameworks.

Between Florence and Yachats lies the Cape Perpetua area, a biodiverse recreation mecca home to lush coastal rainforests and deep cultural history. But past the coastline also lies the largest Oregon marine reserve. The Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve is dedicated to the research and conservation of ocean ecosystem, where take of wildlife and human development is restricted. Cape Perpetua area also contains two Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and a seabird protection area. Unlike the reserve, these protected areas allow limited take in their boundaries.

Within the reserve, creatures large and small live in various habitats from sand, gravel, to some of the most biologically diverse rocky intertidal habitats anywhere on the Pacific Northwest. These creatures live in a unique ecosystem shaped by the ever-changing weather and tides. Some days, strong winds will pull cold, oxygen-rich water and plankton up to the surface in a process called upwelling, while on other, more stagnant days, the water loses its oxygen and becomes hypoxic.

Because of its dynamic environment, the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve is home to a plethora of wildlife such as whales, sea lions, seals, pelicans, cormorants, rockfish, and intertidal invertebrates that fuel a complex food web between the land and sea. (source)

It’s a fear pogrom that is both sophisticated beyond Big Brother, and yet, right to the primary brain center of reptilian stupidity and violence.

Here, Edward Curtain over at Dissident Voice, covers this fear, this divide, etc. Source.

Edward Curtin returns to discuss deep politics and what links the assassination of JFK, 9/11, and Covid-19. No president since Kennedy has dared to buck the Military-Industrial-Complex, including Trump, who is part of the same system that produced both Obama and Biden. He discusses the 1967 CIA memo which told mainstream media to use the disparaging term “conspiracy theory” to quell all deviation from the official narrative, and how this propaganda technique has continued to function from JFK to 9/11 to Covid-19. Many of the same actors involved in the MIC and 9/11 continue to be involved with the drug companies, CDC, WEF, WHO, Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. It’s very obvious, but the story is so frightening people don’t want to do any homework. Too many people think there is this war going on between the right and the left, in the larger frame of reference there is no difference, it’s the warfare state against the regular people, the rich versus the poor. The 4IR is an effort for total political and economic control of peoples all over the world. He believes the purpose of the vaccine mandate is for political control. Ultimately, we are in a spiritual war. The Geopolitics & Empire Podcast conducts interviews with high-profile guests on geopolitics and international affairs seeking to gain insight from experts on both the left and the right as to the true nature of current events. Read other articles by Geopolitics & Empire, or visit Geopolitics & Empire’s website.

The tricksters are at it and have been for decades. The worker — that is teachers and faculty, too, especially — is the enemy. The students are the enemy. So many billions pumped into studying the brain, psychology, neurosciences, behavioral psychiatry, etc. I saw this in 1983 when I was a graduate student, teaching college English. Some of these long in the tooth folk, who want their Vermont or Hawaii lives, but still be the teacher of record for our campus, UT-El Paso. That’s Texas, and already in the 1980s these folk wanted hybrid classes, on-line. Imagine that, critical thinking and debating writing classes, on line! Before ZOOM.

Oh, big companies would “give” laptops to workers — Ford, IBM, HP — not as gifts, but to extract MORE work out of the 40 hour week, and that is now 50 or 60 hours. That is, well, the beginning of technology destroying every aspect of our real selves.

Now, community colleges are up shit creek, pre-planned-demic, but now, too. Imagine, more and more pieces of the state budget pie reduced for Podunk community colleges — vital places of not just learning, but community events, incubators of thinking, and connections to much more than just academia. So, more and more raised tuitions, more and more part-time faculty hired, more and more hybrid classes, and now, the Zoom Doom. Imagine, one teacher on Zoom running a class of 80, 90? This is the new normal — kill the person.

The online option seems to work for all kinds of students. When the financial-aid team returned to campus in August, Bohanon opened up her schedule for in-person appointments. For the first week, no one registered to see her. She told her supervisor she wanted to add online appointments again, and reserved 8 a.m. to noon for online and the rest of the day for in-person walk-ins. “In the morning when I come in — full,” she says. Afternoon? Nothing.” Now her schedule is full every day, but all her appointments are virtual.

The push-and-pull between in-person and online courses continues for students at Southwest, but it may be starting to shift toward the latter. One of the pieces of conventional wisdom about community colleges during the pandemic is that students often dislike or fear online learning — a refrain repeated often at Southwest. But more than a year and a half after colleges transitioned to large-scale distance learning, many of the students at Southwest who persisted have begun to favor online sections over the nearly 40 percent of courses being taught in person.

Rebuild? Time for a revolution inside K12 and higher education. Regroup? Revolt neoliberalism and illiberalism and the constant attack on education. Or, attack on schooling. Constant attack on learning! These so-called leaders have collapsed, and they have crawled under their retirement accounts, and they are seeing-hearing-speaking no evil. This is the Chronicle of Higher Education, a very retrograde, conservative, cover-their-asses-rag!

The new normal is being accepted by the masses, but the mealy mouthed academics and those on the peripheral of academia are coming out like flies on shit:

Southwest and other community colleges may just have to wait out Covid. Even if the virus doesn’t completely go away, the risks may get lower and people may become more accustomed to living with it. “I really think that’s going to be the biggest thing, is time,” Brown says, “and people feeling it’s safe to completely return to, we won’t call it normal, but like the new normal.”

If there’s one thing community colleges should not do, says Eddy, of William & Mary, it’s go back to normal. “It would be a mistake to think, I just need to wait this out to come to a time where we’re going to have more openness,” she says. After a decade of gradually declining enrollments, the pandemic has brought community colleges to an inflection point where they have a chance to — may even be impelled to — make some changes, many perhaps overdue.

Read the article, and look between the lines. These people are stating that the planned pandemic made virtual learning more onerous because students didn’t have laptops and Wi-Fi, and didn’t know what a JPEG or PDF were. Oh, you get it, don’t you? Get those students free (US taxpayer paid for) computers and free (US taxpayer paid for) Wi-Fi. Bootcamps for Microsoft Office 10.0 Adobe workshops. Get those students to be on-line warriors. Take it, and you can’t leave it or you will be cancelled from society.

And this all goes back to the Zoom event, about Cape Perpetua, about 12 miles from where I live, via Highway 101. You think there will be regard for people who want trails for hiking, trails for biking, rivers for kayaking? You think that the overlords want to have us out in nature, out along highways and by-ways? These overlords want to own the world, the land, the forests, the farms, all of it, and they want security, and they want no trespassing, and they want no by-standers and witnesses.

The scientists just take it, because that’s what mechanistic folk do — strip away the A from STEAM — Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math.

This is the motherfucker, the mentality, the demented thought process, and the messed up media, all the brainwashed fuckers of the world, in a nutshell:

“I Don’t Think We Should Ever Shake Hands Again.” Dr. Fauci Says Coronavirus Should Change Some Behaviors for Good

These are madmen:

Madman and madwoman —

Joe Biden CDC Director Rochelle Walensky Takes Over Institution in Crisis - Bloomberg

Terrorists and war criminals —

World Economic Forum: a history and analysis | Transnational Institute

Billionaires ‘R Us —

Davos 2020: What is the World Economic Forum and is it elitist? - BBC News

This is it, man, the last frontier — education! Covid car, online programs, internet-access solutions. If you read this site, The Chronicle of Higher Education, there is not pushback, no discussion of the 4IR, the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Oh, the senseless stupidity of it all, the Covid Van.

MahoneyCar-1109.jpg
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Canadian Forces promote militarism in the classroom

A friend in Montreal, whose partner is a teacher, recently messaged me:

My wife, who sat through the Grade 4 virtual Remembrance Day activity organized by the school board described what it was like: The students watched two soldiers walk around a military base giving a tour. This included tanks. … A student asked if they use the tanks. The soldiers stumbled a bit and the spiritual animator intervened and said ‘we don’t ask soldiers about whether they use weapons or shoot people’. The soldier intervened and got upset. He said something to the effect of ‘no soldier joins the army to shoot people. We join to help people. Some people shoot people, but they have mental health problems that they need help with’. Then a captain cut in, seeming upset. He said ‘soldiers are trained and given an education. And it’s an education, not brainwashing!’ …

The Canadian military has been offering events and speakers — usually Afghanistan war vets, big banners and displays, etc. But I’ve never heard of this before. Touring a military base for 10 and 11 year-olds.

While there are likely many, I’m aware of at least one other instance where the army brought a tank to a schoolyard. In 2007 CBC reported that a Grade 4 “class at Holy Cross Elementary school [in St. John’s, Newfoundland] were given a first-hand show-and-tell session with a tank and related gear.”

None of this is new. The Canadian Forces (CF) has initiated innumerable recruitment and public relations initiatives targeting schoolchildren. Military recruiters often participate in career and education fairs at schools. In April 2019 the CF set up a virtual reality shooting range at a school in Kingston to recruit students from across the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario.

The 38 Canadian Brigade Group’s Signal Regiment has visited hundreds of elementary school children each December over the past four decades as part of Operation RADIO SANTA. The soldiers set up a military command post where the children dictate their Christmas lists to the North Pole. Along with speaking directly to Santa, the students tour the mobile command post, view different military equipment and ask soldiers questions.

An army co-op program gives students four high school credits and pays them to join the reserves where they train to shoot machine guns and throw grenades. The RCN operated a similar high school co-op program. Students in the Victoria area can serve in the reserves after school, receive up to four high school credits and are paid to do basic training in the summer.

Veterans Affairs produces “learning resources” designed for different school grades. In 2012 an education officer with Veterans Affairs explained:

At the beginning of the school year, we send a promotional kit to all schools, containing an example of each of the learning resources available for that year.  … There is also a Veterans’ Week Speakers Program and DND co-ordinates visits by Canadian Forces members to schools.

Militarist organizations also run school initiatives. The Canadian War Museum lends schools free learning kits, which contain artefacts related to World War I and other materials to support in-class lessons. In the late 1980s, according to Professor Peter Langille, the DND backed Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies developed a “high school curriculum program to counterbalance the peace movement.”

Historica Canada’s Canadian Forces Memory Project has reached hundreds of thousands of students. The initiative brings veterans and CF members to schools and its digital archive offers educators more than 3,000 firsthand stories and 1,500 original artefacts chronicling Canadian military history. In Warrior Nation, Ian McKay and Jamie Swift describe the Memory Project message to students: “In essence, the story goes, warriors, made us what we are today. Warriors led us in the past and should govern in the future; and, if you are lucky, you too might grow up to be a warrior.” Since the early 2000s DND, Canadian Heritage and Veterans Affairs have ploughed millions of dollars into the Memory Project.

Operating in schools for more than a century, the cadets are a powerful tool for drawing teens into militarism. To familiarize young people with the CF the military spends more than $300 million a year on the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, Royal Canadian Army Cadets and Royal Canadian Air Cadets. The largest and oldest government-funded youth program, over 50,000 kids were part of the free after-school initiative before the pandemic. Participants may receive school credits and the government offers up hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in post-secondary scholarships to cadets.

The program instills reverence for warfare. Cadets often attend Remembrance Day celebrations and other military commemorations. “Growing up as a Canadian cadet,” explains Kelly Jarman in The Cost of Canada’s Militarist Culture: Perspectives From a Former Cadet:

I was taught that the military is the most important aspect of society and that it deserves unquestioned respect. Trips to museums, Remembrance Day parades and even school assignments were all designed to instill in us the idea that soldiers are noble and that wars are fought for democracy and freedom. The very idea of citizenship is linked to military culture, something that became evident when we toured the HMCS Fredericton naval war ship during a so-called ‘Citizenship Trip.’

Should the military be spending tens of millions of tax dollars a year propagandizing in schools? Should schools promote military “culture” and the militarism that goes along with it? How many parents are even aware this sort of thing happens in school?

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