Public Schools Best Fulfill Dr. King’s “Purpose of Education”

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What is the purpose of education?

 

Is it to train the next generation of workers?

 

Or is it to empower the next generation of citizens?

 

Is it to give children the skills necessary to meet the needs of business and industry?

 

Or is it to provide them the tools to self-actualize and become the best people they can be?

 

In today’s world, our leaders continue to insist that the answer to the question is the former corporate training model. Knowledge is only valuable if it translates to a job and thus a salary.

 

But we didn’t always think that way.

 

As another Martin Luther King Day is about to dawn this week, I’m reminded of the man behind the myth, a person who clearly would deny this materialistic view of learning.

 

When we think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we usually think of the towering figure of the Civil Rights Movement who gave the “I have a dream” speech during the March on Washington in 1963.

 

However, as a teacher, I find myself turning to something he wrote in 1947 when he was just an 18-year-old student at Morehouse College.

 

While finishing his undergraduate studies in sociology, he published an essay in the student paper called “The Purpose of Education.”

 

Two sections immediately jump off the page. The first is this:

 

“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”

 

So for King it wasn’t enough for schools to teach facts. It wasn’t enough to teach skills, math, writing, reading, history and science. The schools are also responsible for teaching children character – how to be good people, how to get along with each other.

 

It’s a worthy goal.

 

But 2018 contains a far different educational landscape than 1947.

 

When King wrote, there were basically two kinds of school – public and private. Today there is a whole spectrum of public and private each with its own degree of self-governance, fiscal accountability and academic freedom.

 

On the one side we have traditional public schools. On the other we have fully private schools. And in the middle we have charter, voucher and home schools.

 

So which schools today are best equipped to meet King’s ideal?

 

Private schools are by their very nature exclusionary. They attract and accept only certain students. These may be those with the highest academics, parental legacies, religious beliefs, or – most often – families that can afford the high tuition. As such, their student bodies are mostly white and affluent.

 

That is not King’s ideal. That is not the best environment to form character, the best environment in which to learn about people who are different than you and to develop mutual understanding.

 

Voucher schools are the same. They are, in fact, nothing but private schools that are subsidized in part by public tax dollars.

 

Charter schools model themselves on private schools so they are likewise discriminatory. The businesses who run these institutions – often for a profit – don’t have to enroll whoever applies. Even though they are fully funded by public tax dollars, they can choose who to let in and who to turn away. Often this is done behind the cloak of a lottery, but with no transparency and no one checking to ensure it is done fairly, there is no reason to believe operators are doing anything but selecting the easiest (read: cheapest) students to educate.

 

Charter schools have been shown to increase segregation having student bodies that are more monochrome than those districts from which they cherry pick students. This is clearly not King’s ideal.

 

Homeschooling is hard to generalize. There is such a wide variety of experiences that can be described under this moniker. However, they often include this feature – children are taught at home by their parent or parents. They may or may not interact with their academic peers and the degree to which they meet and understand different cultures is variable to say the least. They may meet King’s ideal, but frankly the majority of them probably do not.

 

So we’re left with traditional public schools. Do they instill “intelligence plus character”?

 

Answer: it depends.

 

There are many public schools where children of different races, nationalities, religions, and creeds meet, interact and learn together side-by-side.

 

Students wearing hajibs learn next to those wearing yarmulkes. Students with black skin and white skin partner with each other to complete class projects. Students with parents who emigrated to this country as refugees become friends with those whose parents can trace their ancestors back to the Revolutionary War.

 

These schools are true melting pots where children learn to become adults who value each other because of their differences not fear each other due to them. These are children who not only learn their academics as well – if not often better – than those at competing kinds of schools, but they also learn the true face of America and they learn to cherish it.

 

This is the true purpose of education. This is the realization of King’s academic ideal and his civil rights dream.

 

However, this is not the case at every public school.

 

While there are many like this, there are too many that are increasingly segregated. In fact, in some areas our schools today are more segregated than they were at the time of Dr. King’s assassination.

 

These are schools that get the lion’s share of resources, that have the newest facilities, the widest curriculum, the most affluent clientele.

 

So, no, not even all public schools meet this ideal. But those that don’t at least contain the possibility of change.

 

We could integrate all public schools. We could never integrate our charter, voucher and private schools. That goes against their essential mission. They are schools made to discriminate. Public schools are meant to be all inclusive. Every one could meet King’s ideal, if we only cared enough to do it.

 

Which brings me to the second section of King’s early essay that pops off the page:

 

“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”

 

Seventy one years ago, King was warning us about the situation we suffer today.

 

When we allow academics to be distinct from character and understanding, we put ourselves at the mercy of leaders with “reason, but with no morals.”

 

We put ourselves and our posterity in the hands of those like President Donald Trump, the fruit of a fully private education.

 

Racism and privilege become the defining characteristics of a class without character, in King’s sense.

 

If we want to reclaim what it means to be an American, if we want to redefine ourselves as those who celebrate difference and defend civil rights, that begins with understanding the purpose of education.

 

It demands we defend public schools against privatization. And it demands that we transform our public schools into the integrated, equitable institutions we dreamed they could all be.

Do Unions Belong in the Fight Against Corporate School Reform?

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In the fight for public education, the forces of standardization and privatization are running scared.

 

They’ve faced more pushback in the last few years – especially in the last few months – than in a decade.

 

The Opt Out movement increases exponentially every year. Teach for America is having trouble getting recruits. Pearson’s stock is plummeting. The NAACP and Black Lives Matter have both come out strongly against increasing charter schools.

 

So what’s a corporate education reformer to do?

 

Answer: Change the narrative.

 

They can’t control the facts, so instead they try to control the story being told about the facts.

 

It’s a classic propaganda technique. As Malcolm X put it:

 

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

 

Their story goes like this – yes, there is a battle going on over public education. But the two sides fighting aren’t who you think they are.

 

The fight for public schools isn’t between grassroots communities and well-funded AstroTurf organizations, they say. Despite the evidence of your eyes, the fight isn’t between charter school sycophants and standardized test companies, on the one hand, and parents, students and teachers on the other.

 

No. It’s actually between people who really care about children and those nasty, yucky unions.

 

It’s nonsense, of course. Pure spin.

 

They want you to believe that the corporate vultures preying on our public schools are really just misunderstood philanthropists. And those demanding a fair shake for their own children and communities are really just paid shills from a monolithic and uncaring bureaucracy.

 

In essence, they want you to believe two things:

 

1) Despite profiting off the system and zero evidence supporting the efficacy of corporate school policies, they’re motivated purely by empathy.

 

2) Unions are evil by definition and they pervert everything they touch.

 

I’m not going to bother with the first claim here. There is an inherent bias from those who wish to change the laws so they can more easily profit off of schools without actually helping students learn and in fact exist at the expense of that learning. If you can’t see through the propaganda wing of the Walmart corporation, the Broad Foundation and Big Daddy Bill Gates, you probably won’t be very receptive to anything else I have to say.

 

Instead I will focus on the second claim, because it is the more pernicious of the two.

 

Put simply, unions are not perfect, but they are not evil. In fact, they are essential to the health of public education.

 

Many progressives are upset with teachers unions because of the current Presidential election. Both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) endorsed Hillary Clinton in the primary election without what many would consider adequately polling rank and file members. For better or worse, the endorsements were top-down affairs reflecting the preference of union leaders.

 

That’s not how unions are supposed to work. And it’s having consequences for the way both members and non-members view teachers unions.

 

Critics infer from this that unions don’t represent membership. They are de facto arms of the waiting Clinton administration and the neoliberal agenda.

 

There may be some truth to this, but it does not represent the whole picture. Not nearly.

 

Unions are like any other democratic organization. The larger the association, the further from the grassroots the decision making body.

 

In the mammoth national unions, decisions are made by representatives most removed from our schools. They probably were teachers or support staff at some point in the past, but that may be ancient history. Now they are professional leaders and therefore at a remove from the grassroots.

 

By contrast, in our local chapters, leaders are most often working classroom teachers. Decisions are made by those still meeting students’ needs on a day-to-day basis. As such, they retain an authenticity and expertise that may be more cloudy in the large bureaucracies.

 

This isn’t to say the national unions are by definition unconcerned with the needs of teachers and students. I’m sure that most of the NEA and AFT leadership who decided to endorse Clinton did it because they honestly believe doing so will help public education. And – who knows – they may be right. But what they forgot in this case was the democratic process they were tasked with preserving. As such, they may have to pay a price for their hubris when their terms are up.

 

In most cases, the leaders of national teachers unions are at too much of a remove to see what is best for our schools. And they usually know that. It is up to the rank and file to tell them what to do, and that’s what happens every year at representative assemblies through various caucuses made up of work-a-day members. And if leaders overstep their authority it is members’ duty to hold them accountable at election time.

 

So even though the national organizations are most likely to go astray, they often don’t. Usually even these giants are trying to improve the situation in our public schools.

 

However, it can’t be denied that the most intense and passionate activism happens a bit closer to where the rubber hits the road. It’s those local chapters that are there everyday and make the most difference. They are the heart and soul of unionism.

 

So when corporate education reformers sneeringly deprecate their opponents as mere unions, they’re glossing over an important distinction. Opposition to privatization and standardization policies doesn’t come from the leadership of the NEA and AFT. It comes from the grassroots. This is not a top down initiative. It is bottom up.

 

This is how it’s always been. There is no political organization directing the fight to save public education. The Democrats certainly aren’t overly concerned with reigning in charter schools. It was grassroots Democrats – some of whom are also union members – who worked to rewrite the party platform to do so. The Clinton campaign is not directing anyone to opt out of standardized testing. However, voters are demanding that Clinton be receptive to their needs – and some of them are union members.

 

There is no great union conspiracy to fight these policies. It’s called public opinion, and it’s changing.

 

That’s what scares the standardizers and privatizers. They’ve had free run of the store for almost two decades and now the public is waking up.

 

They’re desperately trying to paint this as a union movement when it’s not. Unions are involved, but they aren’t alone. And moreover, their involvement is not necessarily an impediment.

 

The needs of the community and the needs of teachers are the same.

 

Both want excellent public schools.

 

Both want the best for our students.

 

Both want academic policies that will help students learn – not help corporations cash in.

 

And both groups want good teachers in the classroom – not bad ones!

 

The biggest lie to have resonated with the public is this notion that teachers unions are only concerned with shielding bad teachers from justice. This is demonstrably untrue.

 

Unions fight to make sure teachers get due process, but they also fight to make sure bad teachers are shown the door.

 

In fact, in districts with strong unions, MORE bad teachers are fired – not less, according to a new study by economics Prof. Eunice Han from the University of Utah.

 

The study entitled The Myth of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers concludes that when unions are strong and successfully bargain for higher salaries, they have an incentive to help ensure ineffective teachers don’t receive tenure. In short, it costs too much to keep bad teachers on staff. It is in the interests of the collective bargaining unit to ensure those unfit to teach move along.

 

Moreover, Han also concludes that strong unions actually help reduce the dropout rate. It just makes sense. When you treat people like the professionals they are, when you give them autonomy and respect, they’re free to concentrate more energy into their jobs than fighting to keep those jobs.

 

But unions stand in direct opposition to the efforts of corporate vultures trying to swoop in and profit off of public education. Teachers provide a valuable service to students. If your goal is to reduce the cost of that service no matter how much that reduces its value to students, you need a weak labor force. You need the ability to reduce salary so you can claim the savings as profit.

 

THAT’S why corporate education reformers hate teachers and their unions. We make it nearly impossible to swipe school budgets into their own pockets.

 

So do unions belong in the fight against corporate education reform?

 

Answer: Heck yeah! In fact, they are essential to it.

 

No New Charter Schools – NAACP Draws Line in the Sand

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In the education market, charter schools are often sold as a way to help black and brown children.

 

But The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) isn’t buying it.

 

In fact, the organization is calling for a halt on any new charter schools across the nation.

 

Delegates from across the country passed a resolution at the NAACP’s national convention in Cincinnati last week calling for a moratorium on new charters schools. Approval of the new resolution will not be official until the national board meeting later this year.

 

This resolution isn’t a change in policy. But it strengthens the organization’s stance from 2010 and 2014 against charters.

 

Specifically, the resolution states:

 

“…the NAACP opposes the privatization of public schools and/or public subsidizing or funding of for-profit or charter schools…”

 

“…the NAACP calls for full funding and support of high quality free public education for all children…”

 

 

The resolution goes on to oppose tax breaks to support charter schools and calls for new legislation to increase charter school transparency. Moreover, charters should not be allowed to kick students out for disciplinary reasons.

 

This goes against the well-funded narrative of charter schools as vehicles to ensure civil rights.

 

The pro-charter story has been told by deep pocketed investors such as the Koch Brothers and the Walton Family Foundation. But the idea that a separate parallel school system would somehow benefit black and brown children goes against history and common sense.

 

The Supreme Court, after all, ruled separate but equal to be Unconstitutional in Brown vs. Board of Education. Yet somehow these wealthy “philanthropists” know better.

 

People of color know that when your children are separated from the white and rich kids, they often don’t get the same resources, funding and proper education. You want your children to be integrated not segregated. You want them to be where the rich white kids are. That way it’s harder for them to be excluded from the excellent education being provided to their lighter skinned and more economically advantaged peers.

 

Julian Vasquez Heilig, education chair of the California and Hawaiian NAACP chapter which proposed the new resolution, says its ironic charter schools are marketed as school choice.

 

The endgame, says Heilig, is to replace the current public schools with privatized charter schools. This is exactly what’s been proposed in the US territory of Puerto Rico.

 

It’s not about giving parents more choices. It’s about eliminating one option and replacing it with another. It’s about reducing the cost to educate poor and minority children while also reducing the quality of services provided. Meanwhile, public tax dollars earmarked to help students learn become profit for wealthy corporations running charter schools.

 

As the Presidential election heats up, it will be interesting to see how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump address the issue. Already school choice policies have been wholeheartedly embraced by the Republican nominee. Not only does he favor charter schools, he also supports school vouchers and other schemes to privatize public tax money. This shouldn’t be a surprise since he ran his own private education scam – Trump University.

 

Clinton, on the other hand, has been more measured in her support, even criticizing some aspects of charter schools. However, her campaign has issued statements saying she supports only “high quality charter schools” – whatever those are.

 

Moreover, just this week at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton staffers met with hedge fund mangers from Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

 

According to Molly Knefel who covered the meeting for Truthout, the mood was not positive toward ending corporate education reform strategies.

 

She reported that moderator Jonathan Alter worried about the argument becoming based on social justice.

 

“If it becomes a social justice movement, doesn’t that in some ways let, for lack of a better word or expression, Diane Ravitch’s argument win?” asked Alter. “Which is, ‘don’t blame any of us, don’t focus on schools; if we don’t solve poverty, nothing is going to get better.’ Isn’t there a danger of falling away from the focus on at least some responsibility on schools?”

 

Apparently Alter is falling back on the old chestnut that under-funded schools should be blamed and shut down if they can’t help the neediest children to the same degree as well-resourced schools. And any attempt to focus on underlying inequalities would somehow give teachers a free pass? I suppose Alter believes a fire company that can’t afford a fire truck should be just as effective as one with three new ones.

 

Meanwhile, longtime corporate education reformer Peter Cunningham was asked specifically if school integration was important. He responded tellingly:

 

“Maybe the fight’s not worth it. It’s a good thing; we all think integration is good. But it’s been a long fight, we’ve had middling success. At the same time, we have lots and lots of schools filled with kids of one race, one background, that are doing great. It’s a good question.”

 

The number of segregated schools where students “are doing great” is certainly in question. Perhaps he’s referring to well-resourced all-white private schools for the children of the rich and powerful. Or maybe he means the all-black charter schools where administrators handpick the best and brightest students and refuse to educate those most in need.

 

One hopes Clinton will continue to fight alongside the NAACP and other civil rights organizations like Journey for Justice and the Rev. William Barber’s Moral Mondays to defend public schools against the failed education policies of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

 

Two weeks ago DFER President Shavar Jeffries criticized the finalized Democratic education platform for turning against corporate education reform. This transformation away from school privatization and standardized testing was the result of education activists Chuck Pascal of Pittsburgh, Troy LaRaviere of Chicago and Christine Kramar of Nevada who worked hard to ensure the platform – though non-binding – would at least set forth a positive vision of what our public schools should look like.

 

 

Make no mistake, the tide is turning. It is becoming increasingly difficult for charter supporters to claim their products boost minority children’s civil rights.

 

Too many people have seen how they actually violate them.

Five Ways Hillary Clinton is Running a Dirty, Underhanded, & Disingenuous Campaign

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Dirty politics is nothing new.

Negative campaign adds, spreading false rumors, jamming the other party’s telephones, sabotaging opponents, stealing an opponent’s debate playbook, staging fake riots even sabotaging peace talks to help an incumbent.

Historically, we’ve seen all this and more during presidential campaigns from politicians on both sides of the aisle.

But even with that said, the Hillary Clinton campaign is finding new and more unsavory ways to wage political warfare against her challenger Bernie Sanders.

The race for the 2016 Democratic nomination has been marked by some of the most underhanded and repulsive moves we’ve seen in years.

When the dust clears, Democrats will be asked to support the winner, but given the scorched Earth policy of Clinton, it may be very difficult to put the base back together if she eventually comes out on top.

Here are five ways the Clinton campaign has sunk to new lows in its race against Sanders:

1) Voter Suppression in New York

In numerous general elections across the nation, Republicans have gleefully passed voter ID laws they admit were designed to keep down Democratic votes.

However, in this year’s primary election, we may be seeing Democrats working to stop other Democrats from voting.

Consider this: Sanders has won seven of the last nine Democratic primaries. The two won by Clinton were marked by massive “voter irregularities.” And in the overwhelming majority of cases, these problems affected Bernie supporters and not Hillary devotees.

In New York this week, 126,000 people were mysteriously dropped from the voter roles in Brooklyn, where Bernie was born and raised. They were registered in October, but on election day they were gone.

Another 60,000 Brooklyn Democrats had their registrations mysteriously changed to Republican so they couldn’t cast a ballot for their native son. What’s more, these changes were made after the April 1 deadline for voters to make these modifications, themselves. Someone else had to alter registrations in secret without voters’ knowledge.

This fraud wasn’t limited to one Sanders stronghold. According to various reports, approximately 30% or more of the Democrats throughout the Empire State who went to vote found their registrations had been changed, making those Democrats (invariably Sanders supporters) ineligible to vote. Had these people been counted, the state would probably have gone Bernie.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer – both Hillary supporters – have each called for an investigation. But the results won’t come until after the election. By then, there will be nothing we can do about it.

Is this just a coincidence? Given the stakes at hand, could someone have specifically targeted these people?

Yes. Someone could. Read on.

2) The DNC is Taking Sides

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is supposed to be working to help both Clinton and Sanders coordinate their campaigns. The party is supposed to be impartial. It is not supposed to favor either candidate, but it clearly does.

It is staffed by Clinton supporters like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party’s national chair and a former Clinton campaign manager. Moreover, the company hired by the DNC to collect campaign information for both parties, NPG Van, has its own ties to Clinton.

This is significant because NPG Van was shown in at least one instance to having exposed privileged campaign information to both sides.

Facts about who supports each candidate and where they live is kept in a database run by NGP Van. The data helps each side figure out phone banking schedules, where to effectively campaign, etc. So when the company experienced a brief “glitch,” it exposed all this information to both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.

A Sanders staffer was fired for looking at Clinton’s data to determine the scope of the leak. However, the DNC and the Clinton campaign spun this so it looked like the Sanders campaign was stealing the information when the staffer knew perfectly well everything he was doing would be traceable back to him. The DNC even cut off the Sanders campaign from accessing its own files until Bernie took the party to court.

Let’s say the situation had been reversed. Let’s say Clinton staffers had accessed Sanders information about who supports him and where they live. What would they have done with the data? Who knows? But it would have given them the exact information necessary to pull off the voter suppression we saw in New York – which communities need to have “voter irregularities,” and which voters to disenfranchise in order to ensure a Clinton victory.

But if Clinton activists had accessed Sanders information, the DNC would have gone public about it just as the party did about the Sanders staffer, right?

Would they? Would a party that has shown such favor to one candidate, staffed in large part by supporters of that candidate, would it be entirely transparent and forthcoming about improprieties from that campaign? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fact that SOMEONE clearly had access to Sanders information and used it against his campaign in New York leaves us with many unanswered questions.

3) Voter Suppression in Arizona

Voters in Democratic districts of Arizona went to the polls to exercise their civic duty only to find lines literally miles long and wait times of several hours.

The most populous county in the state, Maricopa County, reduced polling locations from 200 during the last election to just 60 this year. That amounts to over 20,000 voters for every location.

The reason given was financial. The Republican administration was trying to save money.

But in retrospect two other explanations seem worthy of consideration. First, this may have been a dry run for the general election. The GOP may have been trying to gauge how well it was suppressing the vote in the highest democratic districts.

Or this may have been an attempt to hurt one specific candidate – Sanders – and help another – Clinton. Once again these “voter irregularities” disproportionately affected Sanders supporters more than Clinton advocates.

Hispanics and Latinos in the state leaned Sanders. They make up more than 40% of the population of Phoenix (30% state wide). Yet in these densely populated neighborhoods, there were few to no polling places open. Faced with such difficulties, many working class people didn’t have the time to wait up to 5 hours to cast a ballot – they had to get to work.

Why would Republicans help Clinton? In polls she is weaker against every GOP presidential candidate than Sanders. Moreover, even if she wins, she is much farther right than Bernie.

Add to that suspicious actions by the media. At roughly 8:30 pm, a little over an hour after polls closed, with less than one percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the winner.

In Democratic primaries delegates are awarded proportionally. It’s not winner take all. Delegates are awarded by the percent of the vote each candidate receives. If the race is really close delegates are split.

Prematurely declaring Hillary the winner while hundreds are still waiting to vote discourages Sanders supporters from staying in line and, thus, can reduce the number of delegates he receives.

The media is clearly biased in favor of Clinton, and she enjoys a cozy relationship with pundits and talking heads everywhere.

4) Hiring Social Media Trolls

On the Internet, Clinton supporters have been silencing dissent and lowering the conversation. A Super PAC headed by a longtime Clinton operative is actually spending $1 million to hire online trolls to go after Sanders’ supporters on social media.

Correct The Record (CTR) is operated by Clinton friend and new owner of Blue Nation Review David Brock. CTR just launched an initiative called “Barrier Breakers 2016” for the purpose of debating Sanders supporters on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms.

The “Barrier Breakers” also are tasked with publicly thanking Clinton’s superdelegates and fans for supporting her campaign. These paid trolls are professional communicators, coming from public relations and media backgrounds.

I may have come afoul of the group, myself. Until recently, I had been a member in good standing of the closed Facebook group Democrats Only. It was a place for fellow progressives to basically talk trash on conservatives and champion Democratic initiatives. However, in recent weeks it has become something else entirely. Posts started to appear that were nothing more than Clinton campaign press releases. For every pro-Bernie post, there were 99 pro-Clinton ones. Posts would appear calling Bernie and his supporters “assholes.” That’s how a site for Democrats talks about fellow Dems!?

And when I politely brought up these disparities, I was kicked out of the group!

This is not about convincing fellow progressives why Hillary is the best choice. It’s about silencing dissent and creating a false sense of Clinton’s inevitability.

5) Misappropriating Sexism

Clinton is clearly the most successful woman candidate in American history to date. She came close to getting the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 against Barack Obama. She has been a Senator and Secretary of State. If she is actually elected president, she will forever shatter the glass ceiling of the highest office in the land for women.

But that doesn’t mean that every criticism she receives is by definition sexist. Calling for her to release her paid speeches to Wall Street is not anti-woman. Demanding an accounting of her hawkish pro-war policies is not being a male chauvinist. Questioning her commitment to the black community given her support for the privatized prison industry is not a faux pas.

However, this is how the campaign, supporters and even the candidate, herself, talks. They call any male who oppose them a Bernie Bro – a loaded, nudge, nudge, wink, wink term implying that any male opposition to Clinton cannot be based on reason and logic but only on sexism.

On the one hand, this is politics as usual. The Clinton campaign is using the same coded language Hillary has always been so adept at – she knew the term “super predator” was a racist dog whistle.

On the other, this misappropriation hurts women everywhere. It devalues the concept of sexism. It cheapens it.

If simple opposition to a female candidate is sexism, then when real sexism rears its ugly head, we’ll be less apt to take it as seriously as we should. The fact that women make only 79 cents an hour for every dollar earned by men is sexism. The fact that women’s healthcare is under attack and so much harder to access than men’s is sexism. The fact that toy companies limit or refuse to market female characters that aren’t overtly “girly” is sexism.

Asking Clinton to explain her record is not.


When this election cycle began, I considered myself a strong Democrat.

No matter who won the primaries – Clinton or Sanders – I was pretty certain I’d support that candidate in the 2016 general election for President.

Now I’m not so sure.

Scaremongers say it may come down to deciding between Clinton or Trump. That’s not much of a choice: one candidate is a member of the 1% and the other is bought and paid for by the 1%.

What’s the difference?

If the Clinton campaign continues to disenfranchise voters, receive an unfair advantage from party leaders, silence dissent and misappropriate sexism, I may end up casting a write-in for Sanders or voting for the Green candidate Dr. Jill Stein.

Either way, I won’t be bullied into giving my vote to a candidate that’s done nothing to deserve it and has worked to make sure people like me often don’t get the chance to vote at all.

The Credibility Gap Between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

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I Believe Bernie Sanders. I Don’t Believe Hillary Clinton.

Really. It’s that simple.

These two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency both have things going for them. But at the end of the day one of them is much more credible than the other.

They’re both career politicians.

Sanders has been a Vermont Senator for nine years, a U.S. Representative for 16 years, and Mayor of Burlington for eight years.

Clinton was Secretary of State for four years, a New York Senator for eight years, and – most famously – First Lady of the United States for eight years and of Arkansas for 11 years.

But when they speak, only Sanders seems genuine.

I know that’s a personal value judgement. Maybe it doesn’t hit you the same way.

I just don’t know how it could hit you differently.

For instance, both candidates say they’re going to keep the banking industry in check and stop the risky practices that crashed the economy under President George W. Bush. However, that same industry is Clinton’s main financial supporter while Sanders has almost nothing to do with them.

Look at the facts.

Clinton admittedly accepts a massive amount of donations from Wall Street – $824,000 from Citigroup, $760,000 from Goldman Sachs, $696,000 from JP Morgan Chase, $636,000 from Morgan Stanley and the list goes on and on. More than 760 of Clinton’s over all donors list their occupation as CEO or another form of chief executive, according to CNBC.

Meanwhile, Sanders has accepted almost nothing from Wall Street, doesn’t have a super PAC and still raises nearly as much money in donations as Clinton. Small individual contributions make up 70% of his campaign cash. His biggest contributors are from retirees, unions and progressive political organizations – $105,000 from Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union, $93,000 from the Teamsters union, $89,000 from the National Education Association.

So when Sanders says he’s going to break up the big banks and regulate Wall Street, I believe him. Apparently, they do, too, since they aren’t giving him any money.

But when Clinton says she’s going to hold Wall Street accountable, too, it’s just laughable. Why else would they be giving her all this money? Are they paying her to get tough on THEMSELVES!? As Sanders supporter Dr. Cornell West puts it, “I was born at night but not last night.”

The same thing goes for healthcare.

Both candidates say they want to reform the system to make it more affordable and fair. However, Sanders supports a single payer Medicare for all system, while Clinton supports tweaking the existing Obamacare system.

Two decades ago, Clinton agreed with Sanders. Now she receives $13.2 million in donations from the medical and insurance industry – $11.2 million when she was a Senator and $2 million since she began her presidential campaign. From 2013-2015 she received more than $2.8 million in speaking fees alone from the industry.
It’s funny how all that cash coincided with a change in her healthcare policy. She just said recently that single payer will “never, ever” happen.

By contrast, Sanders doesn’t receive sizable donations from the industry at all. Though he voted for Obamacare, he made it clear he thought it was a first step toward the better system he still supports.

So I suppose both are credible in this regard, but Sanders seems to be holding his position more because of conviction than monetary gain. Moreover, how much tweaking of the current system would Clinton really support while still in the pay of the healthcare industry?

However, it’s not all about campaign contributions.

Sanders positions have been fairly rock solid throughout his long career. Clinton’s have changed.

Look at mass incarceration – a huge problem in the United States. We have more than 2 million people incarcerated, many for low level infractions, boosting a for-profit prison industry. By contrast, China – with four times our population – only locks up 1.6 million of its citizens. The US has only 4 percent of the world population but locks away nearly a quarter of the world prison population. Thirty Seven states have higher incarceration rates than most nations, large or small.

When she was First Lady, Clinton supported her husband’s tough on crime legislation. “We need more prisons,” she said in 1994, “to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets.” Now that the devastating results of that policy have become clear, Clinton has changed her tune. “We must end the era of mass incarceration,” she said in October of 2015.

That’s quite a switch, and its fairly new. The last time she ran for president, she criticized her rival Barack Obama for being soft on crime and not committing to opening more prisons. Now on the campaign trail she tries to convince us she hates mass incarceration MORE than Obama. In 8 years, she went from a prison booster and belittling Obama for not loving prisons to a prison skeptic.

Did she just evolve on this issue? Has she finally come around to seeing things the right way? Or is she pandering to what she thinks voters want to hear?

Sanders, on the other hand, has been against mass incarceration for most of his career. He’s been speaking about the dangers of ballooning prison populations for more than a decade. As far back as 1994, he said, “Mr. Speaker, all the jails in the world, and we already imprison more people per capita than any other country, and all the executions in the world, will not make that situation right. We can create meaningful jobs, rebuilding our society, or we can build more jails.” Compare that with his statement from July of 2015: “The result of kids not being in school and kids not having jobs is that tragically, today, we in this country have more people in jail than any other country on Earth.”

This issue has become a popular rallying cry recently receiving support from people across the political spectrum. But Sanders was championing it when no one else was paying attention. Clinton has suddenly seen the light.

But it’s not even just past policy decisions.

Clinton is guarded and only seems to make statements that will get her political points. Sanders says things that are sure to loose him votes but that he apparently believes.

For instance, he recently came out in favor of the federal government being largely responsible for public school funding. As a nation, we have drastic monetary and resource inequalities in our nations schools, but no one else is talking about ways to fix it. The trend has been to cut funding. Yet Sanders is willing to put forward a common sense solution the rest of the world has proven works. It’s not bound to get him many votes, though, even from some education advocates afraid of recent federal overreaches in school policy.

Another example is religion. No presidential candidate in recent memory – perhaps ever – has openly admitted to being irreligious. Both Democrats and Republicans usually fall all over themselves to prove how pious they are in their everyday lives. Clinton, for instance, responded during this election cycle that her favorite book is the Bible. Conversely, Sanders admitted he is not a part of any organized religion, though he considers himself Jewish.

That might not get him many votes. But it is refreshingly honest. There is no reason to say something like that unless it were true.

Moreover, Sanders seems like more of genuine person than Clinton. In 1987 when he was Mayor of Burlington, Sanders recorded a folk album. Yes, folk music! It’s called “We Shall Overcome.” The late night shows have been playing it and getting laughs at his expense, but when they bring it up to Sanders, he just laughs and admits that he wasn’t much of a singer.

Can you imagine anything like that from Clinton? Sure, Bill played the saxophone, but Hillary? There is nothing so personal that has leaked to the public. Moreover, the folk song lyrics that Sanders sings are in-line with his political ideology.

Heck! The very fact that Hillary is famous for getting a $600 haircut while Sanders often lets his grey locks fly whichever way they want! It seems like Clinton is trying too hard to convince us, while Sanders is kind of like – here I am, this is me, what you see is what you get.

Ultimately questions of credibility are very personal. People will feel differently. However, looking at the facts, I find it impossible to believe Clinton’s rhetoric and impossible not to believe a good deal of Sanders’. We’ll see how voters feel as the primary elections begin today.

While Hillary Clinton Courts Teachers, Bernie Sanders May Have Conceded The Education Vote

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Hillary Clinton has made huge strides this week courting education voters. The Democratic Presidential candidate made a statement critical of scandal ridden charter schools. She also met with educators to answer questions in a closed door meeting.

Meanwhile Clinton’s main competition for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, remains silent on K-12 public education. He’s a favorite among teachers but he hasn’t really articulated much of an education policy at all.

Parents, educators and students are looking for a candidate with the guts to turn away from the destructive school policies of the last two presidents. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have increased privatization and standardized testing while reducing teacher and community autonomy. Instead of helping alleviate an epidemic of child poverty, they have blamed the problem on schools and teachers while starving them of the funding they need to succeed.

Frankly, moving away from these corporate education reform policies is a bad fit for Clinton. Her past education positions have been almost identical to that of the Obama administration. She’s been a strong advocate for charter schools and Common Core. She receives hefty support from wealthy corporate school reformers like Eli Broad, George Soros, Bill and Melinda Gates and the Walton family. After all, her first major policy achievement was her 1983 campaign to establish accountability-based school reform in Arkansas when her husband was Governor.

Her connections to this movement have not weakened. Just this week, #TeachStrong – an education reform organization – was launched with ties to Clinton. The group is organized by the Center for American Progress (CAP) – a think tank long affiliated with both Hillary and Bill. Husband and wife have hired numerous staffers from this organization and have championed policies that originated behind CAP’s closed doors. Many education observers are theorizing that the #TeachStrong initiatives which blame teachers and try to make their lives more difficult will eventually become Clinton’s education policies if she becomes President.

By contrast, Sanders would seem to be well suited to oppose these corporate-driven school reforms. He’s anti-privatization, anti-Wall Street and pro-worker. His vitriol against the banking industry and the 1% using tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share would only be enhanced if he included corporate school reformers on his hit list. These are, after all, most of the same people he’s already going after just for different reasons. Unfortunately, he has yet to embrace public schools. Up to this week, both he and Clinton favored only pre-kindergarten and college support. Now she has started talking about K-12, but Sanders’ lips remain buttoned.

Perhaps this is because he thinks education voters have already sided with Clinton. The largest teachers unions – The National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – both endorsed Clinton in the primary. However, in each case these endorsements were highly controversial coming mainly from union leaders without much or any involvement from rank and file members.

Clinton seems to know that top-down endorsements alone won’t get her votes. She needs to win the hearts and minds of membership, and she seems to be committed to doing just that. Her education comments may not be entirely satisfactory, her connections may be highly unsavory, and her history may be deeply disturbing, but at least she’s making the effort to reach out to voters who care about the education system.

Sanders, where are you? You’re a Democratic Socialist. You say you’re committed to the public good. What is a greater public good than public schools? The education vote is by no means decided. It remains on the table for either candidate to take.

Personally, I don’t think Clinton is a good choice to come to education’s rescue. No matter what she says, I just don’t trust her. Someone who champions privatization isn’t going to save us from for-profit charter schools. Someone who is in bed with the testing industry isn’t going to reduce standardized testing. Someone who helped establish Common Core isn’t going to repeal it.

But if I’m honest, Sanders has skeletons in his closet, too. In the Senate he voted to expand charter school funding, voted for No Child Left Behind and most recently voted to keep test and punish policies in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. However, given everything else he espouses, all these votes seem like anomalies. While Hillary looks like a seasoned professional who knows exactly what she’s doing in education circles, Bernie seems like a bumbling amateur who keeps making mistakes. It appears all he needs is a good talking to, someone to explain how our interests and his align perfectly. (Call me maybe!)

Of course, there is another possibility. Perhaps Sanders is against us as much as Clinton. Perhaps there is no major politician out there who has any interest in saving our schools.

Perhaps we really are alone.

In that case, maybe we shouldn’t wait for major politicians to come to us. Maybe we should consider supporting someone who is honestly in favor of us but does not yet have much political clout.

What say you, Dr. Jill Stein?

In the meantime I find myself waiting impatiently for Sanders to make his move. But I won’t wait forever. If he wants my vote – and the votes of hundreds of thousands of parents and teachers – he’s going to have to make his case.

Otherwise, we’ll look somewhere else.


NOTE: This article also was published on the Badass Teachers Association blog.

 

Hillary Clinton’s Charter School Problem

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Good news! Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just admitted there are significant problems with the nation’s charter schools!

Bad news! She has no interest in solving them! In fact, she thinks charters are just great.

Here’s Clinton criticizing charter schools:

Most charter schools — I don’t want to say every one — but most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation, because they do, thankfully, take everybody, and then they don’t get the resources or the help and support that they need to be able to take care of every child’s education.

And all over the country, teachers, parents and students rejoice. Someone actually notices our problem!

Charter school scandals seem to hit the paper with the regularity of a grandfather clock. Charters cut student services and boost overhead to produce profit. Charters rack up debt and then sell it for a profit. Charters fudge the paperwork so they get paid for students who don’t actually attend. And just as Clinton said, they push out the children who are most in need and hardest to teach.

In short, most charter schools stink. Clinton admits we have a problem. But how do we solve it?

Clinton:

I have for many years now, about 30 years, supported the idea of charter schools, but not as a substitute for the public schools, but as a supplement for the public schools. And what I have worked on through my work with the Children’s Defense Fund and my work on education in Arkansas and through my time as first lady and senator is to continue to say charter schools can have a purpose, but you know there are good charter schools and there are bad charter schools, just like there are good public schools and bad public schools.

So I want parents to be able to exercise choice within the public school system — not outside of it — but within it because I am still a firm believer that the public school system is one of the real pillars of our democracy and it is a path for opportunity. …the original idea… behind charter schools was to learn what worked and then apply them in the public schools…

So Clinton’s solution to the charter school crisis is what exactly? She seems to be saying that charter schools have major problems, but the best way to fix them is to redouble our belief in this flawed and failing system.

It sounds like a line from Peter Pan: Clap your hands, children, and Tinkerbell will live! You just have to believe! Oh! Close your eyes and believe in charter schools, and they’ll be all fixed!

It’s a non-answer, an evasion. It’s the kind of politics Hillary Clinton excels at – say something so empty and middle-of-the-road that both sides of a position can find something to like about it. Take something and focus group the hell out of it until it’s almost meaningless.

The problem is that this kind of spin doctoring doesn’t help improve our schools one bit. It’s really an endorsement of the status quo. After all, what solution has she offered here?

If you aren’t paying attention, it sounds like a commitment to fix our charter schools, but it’s actually just a commitment to gift wrap them more of your tax dollars with zero accountability.

Notice what Clinton said about choice. She supports parents having a choice between various kinds of public schools – but not parochial and private schools.

Choice!? What a bunch of baloney! By and large parents don’t want to have to shop around for a school the way you would melons at the grocery store. Weigh them in your hands, look for soft spots and hope they’ll be sweet once you cut through the rind.

Parents want all public schools to be excellent. “Let The Buyer Beware” is a poor principle on which to found our system of public education.

Mrs. Clinton, who exactly are you trying to give choice to – parents or corporations? Do you want parents to be able to choose between several mysterious options or do you want to give corporations another market in which to make a profit?

It’s almost a veiled threat. There are some people out there, she might as well as be saying, who want to give your tax dollars to private and parochial schools. Not me. Nope. I’ll only give your tax dollars to traditional pubic schools or charters.

What goes unsaid is the fact that many charters run themselves like private schools. They’re almost the same thing but on the public dime. Why do you think so many call themselves “academies”? They want to look exactly like private schools. The biggest difference is they can’t violate the separation of church and state.

So Clinton is against private schools if they’re called private schools, but if we call them charter schools, they’re just peachy! Wow! There’s such a world of difference between that view and Jeb Bush’s!

Thanks a bunch, Mrs. Clinton. That’s a mighty progressive position you’ve got there. You’re going to support public schools by allowing parents to opt out of them? This is the best the Democrats can do these days!? Yikes!

And please spare me the nonsense about the original purpose of charter schools. They were supposed to be laboratories to try out new things that would eventually get applied in the traditional public school setting!? That has never happened! Not once! No one has ever looked at the charter school model and said, ‘Gee! They’re really doing such a great job! Let’s do that here!” unless it was in terms of the Cadillac funding they often receive while public schools strive to get by on what’s left between the couch cushions.

Moreover, if having the freedom to experiment is so great, why not offer traditional public schools the same option? Why not free public schools to experiment instead of weighing them down with Common Core and toxic testing (which – if I’m not mistaken – you wholeheartedly support, Mrs. Clinton)?

If most charter schools are abusing that freedom by pushing out needy students, why not take that power away? Why not support a national moratorium on any new charters? Why not investigate every existent charter and close down the ones that aren’t effective? Why not take the money saved by such a venture and use it to invest in the traditional public school system that has proven time-and-again to be the best educational alternative for our nation’s children?

Instead of pretending to offer choices, why not make sure every public school is excellent and allow parents and students choices within those schools such as whether they want to take art, music, foreign languages, extracurricular activities, etc.?

Why? Because those would be real solutions, and if there’s one thing politicians hate, it’s solving problems.

If Clinton did that, she might offend someone. She’d lose votes. Better to try to appear to be pleasing everyone.

And thus she pleases no one.


NOTE: This article also was published in the LA Progressive and on the Badass Teachers Association blog.