A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Still Thinking About Charlottesville

There is no good reason to venerate Confederate leaders like Robert E. Lee, Jefferson David and Stonewall Jackson. They, and so many others, betrayed our nation and were responsible for a national bloodletting of staggering proportions. They betrayed our nation for the most ignominious of reasons – the right to hold other human beings in bondage for their financial benefit. To the descendents of those kidnapped from Africa and brutally enslaved, and to all people offended by this mass inhumanity, monuments that glorify these traitors, statues of them in heroic poses, totems to the evil they propagated are an affront, and affront that perpetuates the great lie that continues to this day to eat at the soul of our country – that white, Protestant Christians by some sort of biological destiny were destined to rule this country. Those interested in the history of warfare may be interested the strategy and tactics of the battles of the Civil War. They may be fascinated by the military skills of soldiers like Lee and Jackson. However, they are no more to be venerated than we do Irwin Rommel or some of the other brilliant Nazi generals. Their names, like Benedict Arnold’s, should be synonymous traitor.

As school is about to open here in New York, I find myself wishing I had a class to teach this lesson to. Judging from some of the ignorant comments I’ve seen on Facebook concerning events in Charlottesville from people I know to be teachers, I wish I had an opportunity to engage them on the issues too. While I know that teachers have curricula to cover in what is never enough time, I surely hope they will not miss the opportunity these terrible days present to teach our nation’s children lessons that will last them a lifetime.

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It gets harder and harder to think about public education in the era of Donald Trump. His failure this weekend to speak authentically and forcefully against the convention of bigots in Charlottesville is but the latest shame to befall our country since his inauguration. The images in the media of torch-bearing, race baiting, Jew baiting thugs juxtaposed to the President of the United States hesitantly reading a prepared statement laying the blame for the riots equally on the Nazis, KKK and other assorted haters and those who came to stand against bigotry and intolerance makes this American profoundly ashamed for my country.

The assembled haters were the “deplorables” that Hillary spoke out against. Many chastised her for her remarks and probably made her pay a political price for them. Yet, she was right to denounce them, to see the danger in this growing movement of haters whose notion of making America great again is restoring the hegemony of white Christian Americans. The president pandered to them in his campaign. They are his base. To expect this characterless man to disavow them in any significant way is to engage in wishful thinking. His statement today reeked of insincerity. Literally forced to make a statement condemning the Klan, white nationalists and the other vile creatures assembled in Charlottesville, he emotionlessly read the prepared statement somewhat like a guilty child forced by his parents to apologize for his misbehavior but whose words betray no contrition.

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Tax Reform and Public Education

Financing education off of a property tax is among the worst tax policies we live with in New York and elsewhere. Families living next door to each other in identical homes may have widely disparate incomes; yet, they pay the same amount to support their public schools. Property taxes are unfair on a number of levels. In communities with meager tax bases, local public schools tend to be resource starved, although they often are charged with educating the neediest students. While most of the politicians I’ve spoken to over my years as a teacher union leader recognize this, just about none of them was willing to attempt to lead the way towards a more progressive way of financing public education.

Dependent, therefore, on the property tax to finance our schools for the foreseeable future, the tax reform talk coming out of Washington should be of concern to supporters of public education. Among the proposals being discussed by the Trump administration is an end the deductibility of state and local taxes from federal tax returns. In high tax states like New York and California, such a move would throw gasoline on the ever smoldering fires of property tax rebellion and create irresistible pressures to hold the line on property taxes beyond the two percent tax cap we already have on such taxes in New York or Prop 13 mandates in California. While efforts to end these deductions have failed in the past, with Republicans in control of all branches of the federal government, and with the impact of repeal of these deductions falling disproportionately on higher tax blue states, repeal would seem to have a much better chance this time around.

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The Opportunity of a Teacher Shortage

If it is true as many suggest that we are on the verge of a huge teacher shortage, why aren’t our unions preparing a bargaining agenda that attempts to capitalize on that eventuality? Enrollments in schools of education are down; teacher turnover in many places is high; and the job satisfaction of teachers is demonstrably at a low point. What sort of collective bargaining agenda might revive interest in the teaching profession and lure some of our brightest young people into the nation’s classrooms?

I don’t begin to have all of the answers, but here’s the start of my list of bargaining demands. In much of the country we need better starting salaries and compressed salary schedules that get teachers to maximum pay quicker. In too many places, it takes 30 to 40 years to get to the top end of the salary schedule. While I believe in pay for experience, salary schedules that provide experience increments after let’s say 7 to 10 years are ridiculous. They are simply a way to depress the wages of young teacher who after all are doing the same work as their much better paid seniors.

Unless and until we get universal childcare, bargaining may be the best way to address this crucial need of many of our union members, particularly our female members. Over my many years as a union officer, I found my conversations with members struggling with their need to work and take care of their own children some of the most difficult. Too often much of what they earn educating other people’s children is insufficient to take care of their own. Our union bargained a space in our district to start our own child care program only to find that the regulations for establishing a childcare center made it impossible for our local. We need to come up with a model for district based childcare.

When my local union was organized, the founders’ slogan was “Dignity and Status.” Much of whatever dignity and status we achieved (and for a time we had quite a bit) has been eroded. In most places, teachers today have less of a say in what happens in their schools than they did 25 years ago. Their every step (both literally and figuratively) is monitored, often by a cadre of managers whose ignorance of what constitutes good education frustrates the imagination of teachers and ensures that mediocrity becomes the standard of achievement. We had begun to take charge of our profession. We need to do that again if we are to attract the kind of young people we want in our schools.

With many states having diminished the retirement benefits of teachers, bargaining retirement benefits should be a central focus. In New York more and more superintendent’s contracts call for the school district to pay varying amounts into the superintendents’ 403b account. That has opened a door that we ought to be walking briskly through. In a private sector word of vanishing pension benefits, the certitude of a secure retirement will attract many.

Staff development is apparently here to stay. If that’s the case, teachers ought to decide on its content. It also should take place during the work day. If there is anything a teacher doesn’t want to do is teach all day and then have someone talk to him about teaching. In the last contract that I bargained, our union presented a plan to incorporate teacher driven staff development into the school day. Although we were not successful in getting that demand, experience suggests that repeated attempts at achieving a demand are often successful.

This is the start of my list. I invite my readers to add to or modify my list. The looming teacher shortage hold real potential for the teacher labor movement, but only if we plan seriously and share our thinking broadly.

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Trumpcare Failure

My friends who cling to a Republican Party that vanished years ago – it is either time for you to get active and take your party back, or abandon it. I’m not asking you to join the Democrats. I’m a reluctant member of that crew myself. I know you to be people who subscribe to the ethical and cultural norms that allow our society to exist. I know for a fact that most of you believe we have a responsibility to each other – that there but for the grace of God go we. Believing as you do, you cannot have watched the heath care debate without seeing how your Republican leaders don’t share your beliefs. They sense no responsibility to others. They sense no responsibility to you. They were prepared to allow millions of people to lose their access to health care for no socially responsible reason whatsoever. Although their reasons I’m sure vary, many, I deeply believe, are motivated simply by a deep-seated hatred for President Obama who led the way to passage of the Affordable care Act. Remember, our president tried for years to convince us that Barack Obama was not an American.

Like most of the democratic world, most Americans have come to understand health care as a human right. Today’s congressional Republican Party does not share that understanding. While wrapping themselves in Christian pieties, they openly seek to return our society to a place where the fittest thrive and the weak support their luxury. Freedom to them includes the right to starve or die for lack of timely, effective medical care. To think that this political party was once the home of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower is, it seems to me, to be revolted by what passes for political leadership today. If ever a party turned its back on the public good, it is this pack of amoral hacks that have taken over our country and made us the embarrassment of the world. Republican leadership thinks you are with them. Your silence emboldens them. It’s time they heard from you.

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Standing Up to Anti-Vaxers

While I’ve always been open and proud to be a democratic socialist, my socialism comes with a rather deep libertarian streak. Without compelling reasons, I don’t want the government intruding into the personal lives of people. Whether a reason is compelling or not is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. T he need to vaccinate children against life-threatening diseases is as close to absolutely compelling as it gets. When I was a kid, I listened with abject dread to the radio each summer day as the number of new polio cases was reported. When Susan, a girl from the other side of our apartment building was diagnosed with polio, we were all sure it was just a matter of time before we were all paralyzed and in iron lungs.

A sizable number of today’s parents, themselves immunized against childhood plagues, have gotten it into their heads that vaccinations cause autism and, as a result, are refusing to vaccinate their children, thereby putting other children at greater risk. The false connection between vaccination and autism is known to have been propagated by the fraudulent research work of Dr. Andrew Wakefield. However no amount of explaining that to anti-vaxers as they’ve come to be called, no seemingly endless studies demonstrating the safety of vaccines will free them of their belief, allowing them to get their kids protected. It has always amazed me to see educated people defy logic and science and succumb to magical thinking. I have been similarly amazed at school officials and our elected representatives’ failure to address this very serious problem. Because current law permits religious objection to having one’s children vaccinated, the welfare of the public has been subordinated to the political cowardness.

Hence my amazement to read this morning that faced with the same problem from a growing number of anti-vaxers, Australia has decided to do something about it, the Australian states all passing laws to prevent unvaccinated kids from coming to pre-school and withholding childcare benefits from parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. It’s heartening to see politicians willing to brave the cries of authoritarianism in the interest of protecting the vast majority of the nation’s children from becoming the victims of mass stupidity. One of the basic duties of all governments is to protect its citizens. Our failure to stem the tide of anti-vaccination is nothing short of an abdication of this responsibility.

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Promise Money in Their Pockets

I’ve written many times about the irony that while the NEA has in recent years talked endlessly about organizing, it is completely unsure as to what to organize around. To the extent that they have an organizing message, it seems to be that the NEA exists to help teachers with their professional concerns, whatever that really means. Yet, I strongly suspect that regardless of what their market research consultants are telling NEA leadership, they would do much better organizing around the deplorable salaries and working conditions suffered by many of our members across the United States.

When I began my public school teaching career, the rallying cry of local unions on Long Island was a starting teacher salary of ten thousand dollars a year. It was impossible then for teachers in most places to earn enough to support a family. Extra jobs after school, weekends and summers were commonplace. Those conditions still exist in most places in the United States. Yet, at the recent NEA representative Assembly, I don’t recall hearing a word about salaries and working conditions. Imagine if the NEA undertook a highly public campaign promoting a living wage and professional working conditions for teachers in every town in America. What if as part of that campaign they advanced the notion that we under-value teaching in this country because it is a profession in which seventy-five percent of the practitioners are female.

To join a union requires a belief that one’s lot will be improved as a result. Staying a member requires a clear understanding that one’s economic security is tied to one’s colleagues and their solidarity. A union that doesn’t have this as a core organizing principle is not really a union at all. We need to stop selling professional assistance and get back to talking about putting money in members’ pockets, members whose wages have been stagnating like those of too many Americans.

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No, Mr. President

Every person who has ever run for anything should be telling our president that no one but an ethically bankrupt person would have met with the Russians in the hope of getting dirt on Hillary. Anyone saying otherwise is ethically disqualified from holding any office. Politicians who have had such offers and rejected them should be telling their stories to highlight the moral impoverishment of the leader of the free world. Here’s my little tale.

Back in the early 80’s when I ran for the presidency of my local union, I was an insurgent candidate seeking to knock off a nationally known union leader. I was the head of a slate of candidates with both limited experience and even more limited resources, all of us being young teachers living from paycheck to paycheck. What we lacked in experience and resources we more than made up for in passion and commitment.

About halfway through our campaign a friend came to me with a message from an official of a rival union in our school district, offering me assistance with printing and mailings and anything else they could provide. While the assistance offered would have been invaluable to our campaign, it didn’t take me but a minute to realize that that this offer wasn’t coming from a belief in democratic unionism or full-throated support for my slate’s platform. Even to a novice like me, it was clear that it was an effort to constrain our power should we win by holding over us their clandestine support for our campaign.

So when the President tells me that most politicians would have taken the meeting with the Russians and whatever information they were offering, it’s to be taken more as a revelation of his ethical impairment than a knowledgeable statement about the political people I have known most of whom have been more ethically intact.

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Enough is Enough

I’ll get to the lessons to be learned from the NEA Representative Assembly another day. This morning, I’m saddened, no nauseated, by yet another revelation of the dishonesty, disloyalty and indecency of the President of the United States, his family who have joined him in dishonoring America and all those in our country’s leadership who continue to defend all of the vile cretins in this administration who would stoop so low to seek aid from agents of the Russian government to subvert our elections. Lies drip from their mouths like a Chinese water torture, each day it being increasingly embarrassing to be an American. The news this morning that contrary to what Trump Jr. said yesterday, which was contrary to what he said Saturday, a “former” Soviet counter intelligence agent also participated in a meeting with a Kremlin connected lawyer who dangled the possibility of incriminating material on Hillary Clinton before a drooling Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort is just one lie too many. The irony that these scumbag practitioners of fake news, without nearly as much evidence as exists to document their own treachery, successfully branded Hillary Clinton “crooked Hillary” and convinced enough Americans that she was a threat to the security of our nation should be lost on no American. How long will it be before we rise up and demand that our elected representatives cleanse our country of the political filth that has sullied us all? Had we a parliamentary system, we would have at hand the vote of no confidence that would rid us of these illegitimate imposters.

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Likeability is not Leadership

Lesson two to be drawn from the recent NEA Representative Assembly is that NEA elections continue to have little to nothing to do with ideas. With only token opposition to the three executive officers, there was almost no activity around the officer elections. The only printed election materials I saw were from from the opposition slate of left radicals who clearly presented an agenda, albeit one that has no chance of being adopted by the right of center NEA delegates who tend to cringe at the thought organizing for direct union action. NEA elections throughout my participation in them have always been about popularity. Secondarily, they have been about the ability to make crowd-pleasing speeches that while tickling and charming are essentially devoid of thoughtful articulation of union policy objectives or strategy. One would like to think that the largest labor union in the country would produce contestants for its highest offices who had some ideas as to where they wished to take our union.

Historically, while NEA leaders have amply demonstrated the finely honed social skills to get others to like or even adore them, they have shown almost no skills to lead, to articulate a vision of how the world of the membership might be better and how that better world might be attained. Although likeability is an important component of leadership, it is not in any way a substitute for the ability to convince people to become active participants in improving their lot.

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Lessons to be Learned

I’ve now been to my last NEA Representative Assembly. I’ve managed to get trough thirty some odd of them with little damage to my nervous system or cognitive capacity. While most of these yearly meetings are notable for accomplishing next to nothing, they do afford an opportunity to take the temperature of the organization and gain some insight into the state of its health and the health of public education in America. In the next series of posts, I’ll try highlight what I see as the lessons to be learned from this gathering of over seven thousand NEA activists.

Lesson one is that despite the fact that the NEA faces an existential threat from several Supreme Court cases that seem sure to ultimately wipe out agency fee arrangements and more importantly require public sector unions to sign members up each year, the convention was almost devoid of any discussion of this threat or any obvious plan to foil or mitigate this impending legal attack. Sure, here and there our national leaders worked in a line or two about our urgent need to organize, but with thousands of the members who will be vital to withstanding this attack in one place, absolutely nothing was done to organize them and provide them with a plan and tools to give us some hope of winning. In fact, the one substantive new business item designed to address this issue, an item calling for a substantial expenditure to hire numbers of professional organizers was referred, I believe, to the Executive Committee with the obvious intent of killing it.

If talking alone could repel the powerful attacks on our education union, the NEA would surely survive. It is a core belief of the NEA that if we talk about a problem we have taken action to solve it. Unfortunately talking about organizing and organizing are two fundamentally different things.

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No Surprises

I’m at the NEA Representative Assembly. In a post I wrote a few days ago, I predicted that little, if anything, of importance would be accomplished. So far, I was on the mark. As expected, the three officers were re-elected, no serious opposition having been mounted.

There is clearly a good deal of leftover anger from the Clinton/Trump election. A new. Business item that would have required the direct participation of the membership before the endorsement of a candidate while handily defeated exposed the extent to which our Bernie and Trump supporters are still angry over the early Hillary endorsement.

I’ve attended over thirty of these meetings. Not once has an NEA President used the opportunity of an assembly of over seven thousand activists organized them to go home and take direct action on an issue. Not once! Yet, there is always a great deal of blather about how we have to organize. This year will clearly be no exception.

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The Influence of the Rich

Is there no end to the malignant influence of the repulsively rich on the education of America’s children? Now it’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla who have created the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to pour billions of dollars into some hypothetical personalized learning scheme. What do these two thirty-somethings know about education that warrants our paying attention to them? Next to nothing, Zuckerberg having no education experience and Chan having apparently taught very briefly. But today, ideas, no matter how ill conceived, are made serious and worthy of consideration because they are put forth by someone who has made millions of dollars in some field of endeavor, today mostly in high tech. Billions of Bill Gates’ dollars have been used to promote senseless ideas like small schools, Common Core and teacher evaluation based on student standardized tests scores. We just can’t seem to get it through our heads that just because techie Wunderkinder like Gates and Zuckerberg have made billions, it doesn’t mean they know anything about either what’s wrong with our schools or how to make them better.

We would be much better served as a nation if we had a tax structure that had these fabulously rich people paying a fair share to finance the public services we need. When I was a kid, the marginal tax rate for people like Zuckerberg was over 90 percent. We now look back at those times as a golden age, an age with a growing middleclass, high rates of employment and significantly less economic inequality. Public education would be much better off if all initiatives to improve it came from the government rather than from the charity of the rich. If you take the rich man’s money, you take his id

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Accelerating Towards What?

Long Island Opt-Out leader Jeanette Deutermann is one of the savviest parents I’ve met in the close to 50 years I’ve been in the business of educating children. Her understanding of the evils of high stakes testing has come from an extraordinary effort to learn about testing and what it can and should be used for. Her interest in testing, beginning with its effects on her own child, have gotten her to explore other aspects of contemporary public education to the point her knowledge of the workings of public schools exceeds that of most teacher I know.

Lately she has turned her attention to the subject of accelerating middle school students in math and science. She was apparently prompted to do so after learning that a Long Island school district strangely accelerated 7th graders in science, having encourages many of them to take the earth science Regents examination. As she wrote on her Long Island Opt-Out Information Facebook Page, We really need to start addressing the issue of “acceleration for all”, and pushing kids (yes even those that may choose to be pushed) beyond reasonable limits. Can a baby learn to read? Yes, we’ve all seen the ads of parents using flash cards and computer programs that when used repeatedly over months can produce little baby reading robots. The question isn’t “can they? It’s “should they?”.

This acceleration business has been with us for many years now, beginning with the State of New York encouraging it and taken to absurdity by school superintendents and boards of education more interested in pandering to a public increasingly more interested in seeking competitive advantages for their children than they are in their children learning how to think and be contributing citizens to our society. We have young children studying things like cell mitochondria and the different phases of mitosis who have absolutely no understanding of where their food comes from, how their government works or the responsibilities of citizenship. Some years ago, I taught a class of 11th grade honors students, not one of whom could tell me what the expression, “There but for the grace of God” means.

Real education is not about how fast children learn things. It’s not about competition between students or school districts. It’s not about the egos of superintendents. It’s not about teaching kids to get the edge on others. Education is ultimately about expanding the humanity of our children. Rushing kids through a curriculum that diverges further and further away from their intellectual, social and emotional development does nothing in the end to expand their humanity. It ultimately robs them of the ability to embrace the world and experience joy of understanding its infinite variety.

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The Real Failure of Public Education

If you have read this blog over a period of time, you are aware of my deep belief that the real failure of America’s schools has been essentially ignored. The real failure has nothing to do with graduation rates, test scores, Advanced Placement courses or any of the waves of reformist crap that have drowned out any serious discussion of the of the failure of American education to inform a citizenry so as to make them knowledgeable, critical thinking participants of a democratic society.

If I have interested you in my analysis, you must read “Manufactured Illiteracy and Miseducation” by McMaster University Professor Henry Giroux. Giroux sees the debasing of our public schools as central to an understanding of the politics that has brought us Donald Trump. If you are an educator and will read only one article about education this year, read this one.

On Saturday, I will be off to Boston to attend the National Education Association Representative Assembly. Some 9000 educators will gather ostensibly to talk about the condition of America’s public schools. It’s a safe bet that almost nothing that will be said there will either get as close to the heart of our problems as educators or suggest an activist strategy to remedy our plight as Giroux’s finer than fine analysis.

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Stop Diddling with American Lives

While I’m sure there are Americans who hate Medicare and would prefer some alternative, I have never met one. About the only criticisms I’ve ever heard from Medicare insured people are that some money hungry doctors refuse to take it and that it only cover 80 percent of most doctor bills. So, if we have a system that millions of Americans are satisfied to highly satisfied with, why on earth are we tolerating this charade going on in Washington where the Republicans are attempting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in order to give the economic elite of this country a massive tax decrease. Why don’t we just repeal the Affordable Care Act and cover everyone under Medicare. All Americans covered under one great plan. That’s essentially what our Canadian neighbors do. Oh, you say they ration healthcare, there are long delays for service and their care is inferior to ours. Then why do over 80 percent of Canadians support their system, overwhelmingly rejecting a plan by the Canadian Medical Association to take Canadian medical care in the direction of the United States? It’s time to stop diddling with the lives of Americans and to declare once and for all that access to quality healthcare is a human right. That access is best provided by a single payer system like Medicare.

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Progressive Dallas?

I certainly wouldn’t associate Dallas, Texas with progressive school desegregation. Yet, that’s exactly what is being attempted there in what research suggests is the best way to bring about the improvement of educational outcome for underprivileged minority children – socio-economic integration. Rich kids, poor kids and middle income kids all thrive when they attend school together.

While conservative Dallas seeks to have all of its children living in the same social world, here in the more sophisticated, progressive East we have school districts like Roosevelt, Hempstead and Wyandanch, districts that exist to keep the children of the minority poor separated and unequal to the he white privileged students of places like Great Neck, Syosset and Plainview. Where are our political leaders to offer a plan for the kind of integration sought in Dallas? Where are the leaders who know that children raised apart will be strangers to each other their whole lives?

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Where’s the Light?

Several weeks ago, union colleagues from across Long Island participated in a demonstration in the Lawrence School District on behalf of the students and teachers. Afterwards I wrote, glowingly for me, about AFT President Randi Weingarten’s speech deploring the failure of the Lawrence Board of Education to care about the children in its schools, as they send their children to various parochial schools on the Island. Weingarten spoke from her background as a Jew, a Jew married to a Rabbi. Keepers of that faith are enjoined she said to care about all children, not just their own. She vowed to keep the spotlight on Lawrence. I’ve heard Randi make many speeches. To my ear, this was her best by far.

To the best of my knowledge, the situation in Lawrence has not changed. I have not seen any sun light beamed on the district to disinfect it of its bigoted indifference to the welfare of the children in its public schools and the teachers who serve them. One demonstration in support of a cause is almost never enough. Injustice is a potent germ. Its resistance requires the passionate efforts of those who would rid us of it.

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Some Pragmatism Please

I’ve been a democratic socialist my whole adult life. In college, I was forced to read Michael Harrington’s The Other America, and I was hooked. I read all of his books, went to see him speak several times, joined what then was called the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. So, it should have surprised no one that I have a supporter of Bernie Sanders. Yet, I deeply believe that Bernie has gotten a little too full of himself and a little too self-righteous to boot. His criticism of the Democratic Party serves no useful purpose that I can discern.

If we have a hope of taking back the House of Representatives in 2018, Democrats are going to have to be competitive in some congressional districts that have historically voted Republican and some that have gone back and forth between the two parties. While I wish Bernie’s views could win in all those districts, the fact is they can’t. No amount of wishing will make that so. So, if we have to supports some candidates who are not for single payer healthcare at the moment, it is imperative that we do. There are probably a few districts where people will support a basically progressive agenda but will not support a pro-life candidate. We simply cannot be ideologically pure and expect to win the House.

Taking back the House is our best hope of disrupting the Republican/corporate agenda that seeks to end what has always been an insubstantial U.S. social safety net. To save that safety net, such as it is, and so much else of value demands that those of us on the left subordinate some of our more progressive ideas in the interest of protecting the least among us from the reign of economic terror the republicans have in store for them.

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Exposing the Techno-Hoax

Anyone reading my work over the years knows of my deep suspicion of the motives of the private sectors interest in public education. In recent times, I’ve been sounding the alarm about the unexamined influence of our nation’s high tech entrepreneurs and their companies and their influence on public schools and the employees charged with educating America’s youth. At best, education decision makers have allowed the voices of people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to be amplified by their billions, creating the illusion that they know more about public education than experienced professionals do. I have characterized their philanthropy as giving to get, in that our public schools have spent billions of dollars on their high tech products without any demonstrable improvement in educational outcomes. One would think that if the efficacy of tech assisted education were as claimed, our public schools would be paragons of academic excellence by now, having spent billions over the last twenty years infusing technology throughout our schools.

It was therefore very encouraging to read Natasha Singer’s article in this morning’s New York Times questioning the influence of our high tech billionaires on our schools. The very existence of such a piece on the front page of the Grey Lady suggests an awakening to the fleecing of the public’s schools. Perhaps the techno-hoax is at last being exposed.

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