Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Obama Daughter Visits Spain While Obama Pushes For All-Year Round School

I try to leave the Obama family out of my criticism of President Accountability, but I think today I have to bring in one of his kids to make a larger point about the Obama education deform policies.

A story on HuffingtonPost says Michelle Obama has brought Sasha with her to Spain:

RONDA, Spain — U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha on Saturday visited the picturesque southern city of Ronda, once a favorite haunt of actor-director Orson Welles and author Ernest Hemingway.

Security was tight as Mrs. Obama and 9-year-old Sasha toured Santa Maria, a classic Andalusian-style church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The group – which included an unknown number of the first lady's friends – had driven into the hilltop city in a motorcade and later stopped for lunch at Del Escudero restaurant, set in a baronial style 19th century villa with typical whitewashed walls and red roof tiles located next to the bullring.


Mrs. Obama visited Casa del Rey Moro and the house of St. John Bosco, both palaces with balconies and terraces overlooking the steep gorge.

Ronda is inland from the coastal resort of Marbella, near where Mrs. Obama is staying as part of a five-day, private visit.

Gee - that sounds like a trip of the lifetime for Sasha!

Later this month she will be spending 10 days with her family on vacation - a weekend at the Gulf Coast and a week at Martha' Vineyard.

She is having a heckuva summer!

Contrast Sasha's summer with what the Obama administration wants for public school kids - especially those in the inner cities:

Hello, summertime! No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' — wait, actually, yes, there may very well be more of each of those. Sorry, kids. A vacation-crushing theory on how to improve student performance is gaining traction: more time in class. Longer days, longer year. Goodbye, summer.

It's a strategy supported by both President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and cities and states are experimenting with various approaches. Cincinnati, Ohio, for example, in June started giving students in the city's 13 most persistently failing public schools the option of an extra month (a "fifth quarter") of classes. And Ohio Governor Ted Strickland hopes to phase in a similar 20-day extension at all schools statewide.

Duncan, as the nation's educator in chief, has repeatedly plugged a longer school day and year. He views today's standard six-hour, 180-day calendar as way too old school, a holdover from not only 19th century agrarian society but also mid–20th century Donna Reed–style parenting. "Our children are no longer working in the fields," Duncan says. "And Mom isn't waiting at home at 2:30 with a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. That just doesn't happen in many American families anymore."

No, I guess it doesn't. Except in the Obama family, of course, where the Obama kids still get to enjoy summer vacation and summer trips.

Yes, it is true that many families do not have the financial resources or time the Obama's have to take their kids all over the world.

But it is also true that keeping children in hot classrooms all year round (and many are NOT air-conditioned) drilling for standardized tests isn't going to develop well-rounded human beings either.

I have said over and over, we are not "human doings," we are "human beings."

We need time off for rest, rejuvenation, reflection.

We are MORE productive when we have time to rest our minds, to reflect upon our experiences, to commune with nature, to work a spiritual or communal practice.

We are also more human and more alive when we engage in these soulful activities.

But the people who run our society do NOT want you to engage in them.

Because they take you from the frantic, ADD-culture we have that has people frenetically pursuing the "next thing," breathlessly "racing to the top" for some ill-devised goal that once reached does not bring peace, happiness or serenity.

We ought to be teaching children that time off for rest, rejuvenation, reflection, meditation and spiritual practice will make them happier, healthier, and ultimately more productive and useful members of society.

But of course Obama and Duncan (and the corporate overlords who put them into power) do NOT want that.

It just might help people to realize how shallow, stupid and harmful the corporate accumulative culture we have in the United States these days is.

So instead they push their Bridge Back To The 19th Century policies by looking to extend the school day to 10 hours, the school year to all-year round (as has happened in many charter schools like KIPP, Harlem Success, et al.) and socialize kids to expect to have to work their 60 hours/6 day work weeks that so many in the centuries before unions and "progress" had to work.

Do NOT be fooled by the Extended School Time Movement that pushes more seat time and all-year round school.

Especially not when you know that corporate predators and slave labor employers like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are behind them.

They are NOT looking to improve the education levels of children.

They are looking to exhaust children and get them ready for mindless serfdom bound to corporate culture.

POSTSCRIPT: BTW, Arne Duncan's point that the traditional school calendar is based on some out-dated agrarian calendar that gave kids the summer off so they could work the farm is jive.

Planting is done in spring, harvesting in fall.

If an agrarian calendar was being used for schools, kids would have time off in spring for planting and again in fall for harvesting.

The school calendar we use now has time off in summer because it is the hottest time of year and many schools are not air conditioned.

Here in NYC, MOST schools are not air-conditioned, so keeping kids in class all summer would be brutal and inhuman.

I know I worry in June during the Regents exam period if the heat goes above 90 (as it did this year.)

My job as a test proctor on those days is as much about making sure students (especially those in remedial or support services classes) stay awake during the test and do as well as they can despite the sweltering heat.

I can tell you from experience that not much productive work gets done during the hot months.

Unfortunately Obama's and Duncan's kids neither attend public schools nor schools without air-conditioning, so they don't understand this problem.,

Same goes for Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and the rest of the corporate Extended Time Movement.

If they wanted to pay to wire all inner-city schools for air-conditioning, then pay for the electricity in each school to run those air conditioners, I might think they were being a little more ingenuous about their movement.

But they don't.


  1. Have you seen George Carlin's "American Dream" bit? They want obedient workers, not thinkers. I teach in Wisconsin. What's happening in education is so disheartening, spirit-killing really. Thank you for 'bringing the noise' up in here. I read your blog daily. I hope the pendulum will swing and we'll get back to some common sense practice in our classrooms. Right now everything is so developmentally distorted. Our children are never given the credit they deserve. It's hard to be hopeful anymore.

  2. Have I seen the Carlin "American Dream" bit? I know it by heart! It is brilliant, just brilliant. I may have even posted it somewhere on my old blog ( and I know Perimeter Primate just put it up at her blog too.

    Yes, Carlin was dead right in that piece (actually he was dead right about most things.) I wonder what he would say about the education "reform" movement?

  3. There is no doubt the current prez and first lady enjoy, a bit too much, the perks and trappings of the office of the president. Reliable lib and faux presidential scholar Doris Kearns Goodwin defended the obscene waste of taxpayer dollars for Michelle Obama on CNN last night by declaring "all presidents take vacations" and that "this wouldn't cost us anything". Well, it turns out it is costing us a fortune in secret service travel and accomodations just to start with. And very few presidents take wildly expensive trips to Spain in the midst of a recession and shortly after telling Americans to take trips to the Gulf Coast.
    It is not so much the private schooling and the extravagant is the hypocrisy therein.

  4. Duncan knew before 2002 that Chicago Public School's instructional day was too darn short. The instructional time is the lowest of all urban school districts. By the tenth grade, a child in NYC schools, has a one whole academic year of instructional time more than a Chicago Public School student. Teachers have a headache trying to squeeze in writing, science and social studies. In Chicago we have added more year round schools. Year round does NOT mean more instructional time! The public thinks there is more instructional time. CPS plays it off like there is more instructional time. Ask someone more competent than I, but the year round schedule cheats teachers out of pension money in Chicago!! As you said, not all the schools who became year round schools have air conditioning!

    Obama and Duncan deserve an F. Not even close to getting the D. Duncan is a puppet that serves the privatization machine. He is disgrace!

  5. Anonymous - I agree, it is the hypocrisy of the trip. Such ostentatious spending while the unemployment numbers get worse (if you add the unemployed who are still looking for work and those who have given up, the number is over 16% of the populace), GDP falls, they cut food stamps, they get ready to cut Social Security, etc.

    But there's always money for a trip for the First Lady and the First Daughter...


    My understand is that there are two ways to do year round school. You can split up the 10 week summer vacation over the course of the year but keep the same amount of school days or you can add schools days so that kids go to school for 220-250 days a year.

    The Extended Time Movement wants the second kind - 220-250 days a year.

    Remember the blizzard in NYC that shut down schools in February? Eva Moscowitz's charter schools were in session because "we can't afford to lose any school days!"

    Mistress Eva already has her students in school 220 days a year!

    God knows, 219 would just be awful!

    I like neither version of the Extended School Year plan. Leave summer as it is. Add programs that give children a chance to enjoy the outdoors, nature, the beach, etc. Also, add reading programs throughout the summer. But do not keep children indoors doing standardized test drills, as Obama wants to do and as Eva already does.

  6. Yes, I'd love to take my kids to Spain this summer. I can't but I do take them camping and send them to wonderful camps. And if all Americans were capable of providing their kids these great opportunities, I would agree that summer should not be touched. But I know that many of my students are home watching TV and surfing the net. Some will speak little English all summer and will struggle to get back on track when school starts. I agree that we do not need more time in class but I am for a shorter summer and putting those breaks at other times of year. 2 weeks off in the fall, 2 in the winter will rest all our minds without letting so much learning get lost.

    And it is hardly hypocritical of Obama to let his kids have trips when they do have vacation. It would be idiotic to keep them home just because the school year might change in the future.

  7. I really like this. I found this online that, Heat And Cool, Americans NUMBER 1 Online HVAC store, Free Shipping & 50% OFF on select products Klimaire Central Ducted Systems. You can rest assured that as a customer of Heat And Cool you are receiving the best prices, support, and products.
    central air conditioning