Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, March 30, 2012

Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation And Watergate-Style "Dirty Tricks"

From David Salter at Media Watch - reposted in full:

It’s been a bad week to be a Murdoch. Even ever-smiling Sarah, who married into the clan via Lachlan, seemed so paralysed by the revelations over the past five days that she confessed to Nine News that she couldn’t make up her mind which infant to vote for as a judge of the Australia’s Loveliest Baby competition. That it has come to this …

News Corporation suffered three hefty hammer blows in the space of as many days. First, the BBC current affairs flagship Panorama revealed the bones of what looks to have been a secret worldwide strategy to sabotage their competitors in the pay-TV market. The following day, The Australian Financial Review put some meat on those bones with exhaustive detail. On Wednesday, The Independent (UK) published a strong news feature that tracked how similar hacking/piracy techniques had been employed in Italy, where News International also has a major interest in pay TV. The Independent described its revelations as another chapter in the “uncomfortable scrutiny of the Murdoch empire”.

There’s a delicious irony here. Just weeks ago Murdoch was protesting to the world how his competitors were all helping themselves to content on the internet sites of his major titles. It was outright and unconscionable “theft”, declared Rupert. Now it looks very much as if businesses either owned by, or associated with, News have been encouraging code hackers to steal access to the pay-TV services of their competitors, thereby robbing them of income and making them vulnerable to takeover — often by News.

Like the wounded bull elephant he now resembles, Murdoch spat back venom on Twitter: “Enemies many different agendas, but worst old toffs and right wingers who still want last century’s status quo with their monopolies.” Murdoch complaining about right-wingers and monopoly power is a tad piquant to say the least, but there was more: “Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels.” Anyone who’s been done over by a Murdoch tabloid, or been the target of The Australian’s long, vengeful attack campaigns will find the hypocrisy of Rupert’s bleat breathtaking.

After a day or two struck dumb by shock (or maybe waiting for their riding instructions), News outlets in Australia have circled the wagons. Page two of today’s Australian is a classic of confected outrage. The common theme is that NDS, the News-owned company accused of running the hacking/piracy operations, had done nothing “illegal”. That may well be so, but it’s hardly the point. Nixon kept declaring “I am not a crook”, but he still had to go.

What’s important here is that the stench of underhand, possibly illegal News Corporation business practices is no longer just confined to the News of the World phone-hacking outrages. Indeed, the stink now emanating from Murdoch’s TV and associated electronic media ventures may soon overpower the original bad smells from Wapping and New Scotland Yard.

Curiously, these new revelations have so far attracted a tiny fraction of the coverage of the NotW scandal. Why? Because newspaper reporters and editors still tend to think of media power in terms of traditional print. Any story about Murdoch’s tabloid shenanigans gets huge coverage in the broadsheets because it reinforces old assumptions about the Dirty Digger and his dreadful deeds. The lazy, under-resourced electronic media then follow print’s lead and amplify the story beyond sensible proportions.

Yet what’s really happened following the News of The World scandal? A few showy parliamentary inquiries, a few non-custodial arrests without charge, a few sackings and resignations. One of Rupert’s London red-tops closes to be replaced a few months later by another. In hindsight, all the hyperventilating coverage of Murdoch’s UK phone-hacking embarrassments has been disproportionate.

What we’re getting now, with the Panorama/Fin Review/Independent investigations, is far more significant for the long-term health of News and the Murdoch family. It hits them hard where they now make most of their money. What truly matters to them are the new rivers of media gold — pay-TV subscriptions in high-population markets.

At last count, print represents about 20% of News revenues, and probably even less of its net profits. Sure, Rupert loves to wield power and influence through his newspapers — they’re what get him in the back door of No.10 and front gate of Kirribilli House — but the profits from one mega hit Fox movie swamp anything his newspapers can deliver. Another indicator of this relative scale is the pending sale of NSD, essentially a software company, to Cisco for $5 billion. You could probably buy most, if not all, of Rupert’s print mastheads around the world for less than that.

The real story here (and the one that’s likely to do significant long-term damage to News) is that we now have evidence of an apparently widespread culture of Watergate-style “dirty tricks”. This is a corporation that apparently finds it difficult to see any distinction between robust competitive business behaviour and sabotage.

Rupert’s fight for survival won’t be waged in the UK or Italy but in the US, where the business establishment has always seen him as an uncouth interloper. They’re patient men, quite happy to let the British and Australian media make the running until their quarry is weakened. Eventually, one of the myriad American agencies with a stake in local media regulation will pluck up the courage to assemble all the evidence and put Murdoch to the “fit and proper person” test. Which is where the real fun will start.

Meanwhile, the sudden departure of John Hartigan as boss of News Limited in Australia might now make more sense. Either he knew there was some very unpleasant stuff barrelling down the chute towards him, or the international Murdoch heavies realised they needed a fresh cleanskin in the CEO chair so he could run the “it-all-happened-before-my-time” defence.If the fallout does reach Australia, Hartigan’s successor Kim Williams may not be so lucky. Initially he could deflect any fresh allegations with an “I know nothing” shrug, but his recent long tenure as boss of Foxtel may now not seem such an impressive line on his CV.

There’s another interesting Australian connection. When Rebekah Brooks had to be dumped last year as News International CEO in London at the height of the phone hacking dramas, Murdoch drafted in his veteran Australian fixer Tom Mockridge as the new boy with no bad backstory. But that strategy may now unravel as it emerges from The Independent investigation that Mockridge was at the helm of Sky Italia when it may have been involved in yet more shady dealings with encryption-card hackers.

Through it all, Murdoch and his lieutenants around the world have persisted with the inverted morality that’s become almost style-of-house for the News empire and its outlets. They run the largest commercial media conglomerate in the world, yet portray themselves as victims. They complain of being unfairly attacked by their enemies (those damned “elites” again) while never hesitating to use their power to push agendas and pursue vendettas. “Easy to hit back hard, which is preparing” Murdoch posted yesterday.

Indeed, Murdoch increasingly looks like the King Lear of Bel Air, tweeting against the tempest while his wives and children furtively position themselves to snaffle up whatever may be left of his crumbling empire. Last night he was still at it on Twitter, damning the AFR expose as “Proof you can’t trust anything in Australian Fairfax papers, unless you are just another crazy”.

Still crazy after all these years? This will get ugly before it’s over.

Puts all this Murdoch stuff in proper perspective.

This is one dirty company run by one dirty old man and his crooked family and cohorts.

And now they may be going down...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rupert Murdoch Attacks His "Enemies" On Twitter

Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation have been accused of stealing the codes of pay TV rivals, handing those codes over to pirates to distribute and destroying competitors in the pay TV business.

News Corporation may face two new criminal investigations over these allegations - one in Australia, one in Britain - on top of the four criminal investigations they are already undergoing in the phone hacking/police bribery scandal (three in Britain, one in the U.S.)

Yesterday News Corporation issued a statement calling the TV piracy allegations, which were reported by both the BBC and an Australian newspaper, "baseless accusations."

Today Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter to attack those who are making these allegations of criminal wrongdoing at News Corporation:

Rupert Murdoch has launched a fightback on Twitter against what he described as "lies and libels" against News Corporation, attacking "enemies" including "old toffs and rightwingers".

The media mogul tweeted three times in the early hours of Thursday morning London time attacking his critics.

In his first tweet he said:

"Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels. So bad, easy to hit back hard, which preparing."

Murdoch's outburst dovetailed with a statement from Chase Carey, his right-hand man and News Corp's chief operating officer, who accused the BBC of "gross misrepresentation" over a Panorama documentary which alleged that its former subsidiary NDS was involved in helping computer hackers to undermine ONdigital (later rebranded as ITV Digital).

Murdoch followed up with another tweet in which he categorised the different types of "enemies" News Corporation faces:

Enemies many different agendas, but worst old toffs and right wingers who still want last century's status quo with their monoplies.

Murdoch ended his barrage with a tweet exclaiming:

Let's have it on! Choice, freedom of thought and markets, individual personal responsibility

On Thursday News Corp released a statement claiming that the BBC's Panorama documentary, Murdoch's TV Pirates, had "presented manipulated and mischaracterised emails to produce unfair and baseless accusations".

Earlier this month News Corp and Permira announced the sale of NDS to Cisco in a $5bn deal.

News Corp also on Thursday published a letter to Panorama from NDS executive chairman, Abe Peled, accusing the BBC current affairs programme of having "seriously misconstrued legitimate activities" the company undertakes in running its encryption business.

Murdoch was also the subject of a 50-minute PBS programme, Murdoch's Scandal, which aired in the US on Tuesday and in the UK on Wednesday. While it did not contain any major new revelations, the fact that a high-profile broadcaster aired such a programme in his adopted home was likely to have caused embarrassment.

Ah, yes - Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation, a paragon of personal responsibility and free choice for all.

That's why Murdoch had his company steal other pay TV companies security codes and distribute them to pirates to distribute via the net.

He wanted free pay TV for all!

Except for his own pay TV networks, of course.

Those you have to pay for.

But what a guy!

Murdoch is just looking out for the little fellow and working to make this world a better place for the 99% while those evil "old toffs" and "right wingers" are trying to save their "monopolies."


You have to wonder, does he believe his own b.s or does he just spew this stuff like his morning phlegm?

In any case, Mr. Murdoch and News Corporation are now facing some serious problems that even the master of the cover-up, Joel Klein, may not be able to fix.

Just as the Watergate scandal unraveled over the course of a few years, with each revelation exposing just how corrupt the Nixon administration really was, the News Corp. scandals are slowly but surely exposing the rot that is at the core of this criminal company.

And just as each revelation in the Watergate scandal brought the investigation closer to Nixon himself, these new revelations are coming dangerously close to Rupert Murdoch.

After all, the people that are accused of stealing the codes and handing them to pirates reported DIRECTLY to his office.

No wonder he's hitting out on Twitter.

Murdoch knows he's in trouble and he's frustrated by it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation Faces Police Investigation In Australia For Hacking

From The Telegraph:

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is facing a police investigation in his native Australia, throwing his attempt to tighten his grip on its powerful regional media into jeopardy.

The Australian government has called for a police inquiry into corporate hacking by the media group, after a newspaper released more than 14,000 emails allegedly showing that the company used a secret unit to sabotage competitors.

The office of Stephen Conroy, Australia's communications minister, said the allegations were "serious" and "should be referred to the Australian Federal Police for investigation".

Experts said a police inquiry would be likely to derail the $2bn bid by Foxtel - the Australian pay-TV operation 25pc owned by News Corp - for rival network Austar.

Claims have been made that NDS, a technology company that was part-owned by News Corp, had a secret unit which encouraged the widespread hacking of competitors. The practice reportedly cost rivals $AUS50m (£33m) a year and helped put at least one out of business.

The Australian Financial Review made the claims this week, as it published thousands of emails from an archive held by Ray Adams, European chief of the unit called "Operational Security" between 1996 and 2002. Pay-TV operators worldwide, including ITV Digital in the UK and Austar in Australia, were subject to a major wave of piracy during the period.

On Monday, a Panorama documentary on BBC1 alleged that NDS hired a man who ran a piracy website and tasked him with publishing "cheat" codes on the internet, allowing viewers to "crack" their ITV Digital boxes and use the services for free.

Crime all over the world - that's what Rupert Murdoch hath wrought.

And unlike the phone hacking scandal, which ultimately seems to end right at Rupert's son, James Murdoch, this TV piracy hacking scandal lands right at Rupert Murdoch's door:

The Australian Financial Review aligned the NDS scandal to Murdoch senior, saying it was ''particularly sensitive because Operational Security … operates in an area which historically has had close supervision by the office of the chairman, Rupert Murdoch''.

More on this later.

Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation Face New Allegations Of Worldwide TV Piracy, Corporate Espionage And Hacking

From Britain to Italy to Australia to North America to Israel - Rupert Murdoch's company News Corporation is now facing allegations of corruption and criminal activity on four different continents:

Reuters) - Pressure is building in Britain and Australia for fresh probes into Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, already under siege over phone-hacking claims, after allegations that it ran a secret unit that promoted pirating of pay-TV rivals.

The Australian Financial Review on Wednesday alleged that News Corp had used a special unit, Operational Security, set up in the mid-1990s, to sabotage its competitors, reinforcing claims in a BBC Panorama documentary aired earlier this week.

"These are serious allegations, and any allegations of criminal activity should be referred to the AFP (Australian Federal police) for investigation," a spokeswoman for Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told Reuters.

Operational Security was a unit of News Corp's secure-encryption subsidiary NDS, which has denied any wrongdoing in relation to the Panorama claims.

News Corp, which this month sold NDS to Cisco Systems for $5 billion, said it accepted those assurances.

Its Australian arm, News Limited, denied the claims in the Australian Financial Review.
Murdoch and News Corporation face similar hacking/piracy allegations in Italy.

The Daily Beast analyzes the story and finds that these allegations go far beyond anything that came previously in the phone hacking/bribery scandal that has launched three separate police investigations in Britain.

They quote Neil Chenworth, the journalist who investigated alleged News Corporation piracy in Australia:

Chenoweth thinks the scale of these revelations could easily outstrip anything so far in the News Corp. saga: "The phone hacking in Britain revealed intrusions into personal privacy, and caused reputational and succession damage to News Corp. But the costs will be only a few hundred million dollars. What you have here is an issue which caused five separate different lawsuits in the past against News Corp. from global corporations each claiming billions of dollars. I would estimate this is at least 50 times bigger than phone hacking."

The newspaper division of News Corporation is a small part of the whole company's profits - News Corporation can afford to see News of the World, the Sun, the Sunday Times, the New York Post and even the Wall Street Journal go down.

The company would have a harder time surviving the loss of the pay TV revenue, which could happen if they are found guilty of putting competitors out of business through piracy and hacking.

This scandal is now going right to the heart of News Corporation and exposing the company as having nothing but rot at its core.

You'll note, the more journalists who are independent of Murdoch dig into the story, the more they find.

First, The Guardian broke the Milly Dowler hacking story and attendant bribery.

Now the BBC and The Australian Financial Review are breaking open the piracy scandal for News Corporation.

The criminals and phone hackers at the NY Post ought to be worried a lot more about this story and a lot less about teacher evaluations.

Because now that allegations of piracy have surfaced in Britain, Australia and Italy, the company must undergo worldwide scrutiny.

Every time you scratch the surface of News Corp,, you find moral and ethical rot.

Let's see Joel Klein try and "fix" this latest scandal.

CUOMO: Teacher Evaluations Should Be Public, But My Records As Attorney General Should Not

Governor Cuomo said today he believes teacher evaluations in New York State should be made public.

He said open access to the records is important.

That's interesting, since he is shielding the public's access to his own records when he was the attorney general of New York:

ALBANY — Looking for records from Andrew Cuomo's tenure as attorney general? Good luck.

Fifteen months after leaving the Department of Law, Cuomo has sent almost nothing to the State Archives, designated by state law as the final resting place for every attorney general's papers.

The state Education Department, which oversees the archives, has inexplicably delayed the Times Union's request to review what three people familiar with the matter said are 10 boxes of records, or about a dozen cubic feet.


The Times Union reported last week that some of Cuomo's records sought under the Freedom of Information Law were discarded, and the request closed, as he ascended from attorney general to governor in 2010. The administration had delayed other requests lodged under FOIL, but says it is now current.

Apparently open access to the records of government employees is important so long as the government employee is NOT Andrew Cuomo.

Just another example of the hypocrisy of Governor 1%.

Hey, Governor, what are you hiding that you had some of the records from your tenure as attorney general destroyed and the rest you're sitting on for years and years?

If teacher evaluations should be public, then so should your records as attorney general.

Make those records public first and THEN we'll talk about teacher evaluations.

Criminals Running New York Post Lie About Push To Shield Teacher Evaluations From Press Publication

The ethics-challenged phone hackers and bribers running the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post are slamming a move to try and shield the new state teacher evaluation system from FOIL.

Here's what they printed today:

Poll: Should New York City parents have access to teacher rankings?

Have your say parents.

Facing tremendous pressure from teachers unions, The Post reported that lawmakers are pushing to insert a provision in the state budget that would ban the public from seeing new teacher report cards.

The effort to keep the public from viewing the evaluations is spearheaded by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), an Albany insider said.

This comes a month after The Post printed teacher evaluations for 12,170 New York City public school teachers from grades 4 through 8.


Sources said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County), trying to maintain the GOP’s slim Senate majority, might go along with the controversial prohibition.

“This is real serious. They mean it,” one state official told The Post. “What does the governor do if the Legislature passes this? It puts him in a tough spot.”

Actually, Assembly Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Skelos did not say they want to keep parents from seeing teacher evaluations. They said they want to find a way to keep the evaluations from being printed in the media.

In fact, the NY Post reported that just yesterday:

A brief legislative effort to sneak a provision into the state budget that would have blocked the public release of teacher evaluations lost steam yesterday.

“I don’t see it in the budget, and I don’t see it down the road,” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau) told reporters at the Capitol yesterday.

But, although a Cuomo administration source told The Post flatly that such a provision won’t be in the budget, the source would not rule out the possibility that it could come up before the Legislature as a separate issue before the June 21 end of the legislative session.


Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver signaled that the issue is far from dead.

“There were discussions in terms of seeing if there’s a way you could balance the parents’ right to know and some sort of privacy rights,” Skelos said.

Silver (D-Manhattan) said the question was “how to compromise the issue so that parents know what’s doing in their schools.”

Those statements - that Silver and Skelos wants to find a compromise being parents' rights to know what is going on in their schools and the rights of privacy teachers should have over their evaluations ending up in the media is a lot different than how the Post characterized Silver's and Skelos' positions today.

As usual, the criminals running the Post don't bother with such niceties as the truth or facts.

In reality, the Post reported that even the Mayor of Money himself might be in favor of shielding teacher evaluations from the press so long as parents had the right to see the information:

Mayor Bloomberg suggested it would be “the height of arrogance for the government” to block parents from seeing teacher evaluations — but he noted one idea is “you give it to the parents, but don’t give it to the press."

It is just that idea that offends the phone hackers and bribers running the NY Post and so they have chosen to launch a dishonest campaign to characterize the shield law as one that will keep ALL of the information about teacher evaluations from parents when it looks like Silver and the legislature simply want to keep it OUT OF THE PRESS.

Oh, well - what are facts and truth to a company that bribes police, destroys evidence in a criminal investigation, conspires to cover up criminal activity and hacks into the phones and computers of thousands of people illegally?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What The Intractable Use Of Metrics On Teachers And Schools Will Do To Students

Michael Powell has a very powerful piece in the New York Times today about Bushwick Commnity High School - a "last chance" transfer school that has literally saved the lives of some teens, yet will faces closure this summer.

Here is how some see the school:

Aniah McAllister was a lost girl of New York, one of tens of thousands of children edging toward an adulthood drained of hope.

At 18, she possessed just 17 high school credits; she knew the streets and little more. She wandered, almost on a whim, into Bushwick Community High School in Brooklyn, a last-chance school for last-chance kids.

Two years later?

“I’m 20 years old, I have 46 credits, and I want to go to college.”

Ms. McAllister shakes her head, as if amazed to have just claimed that desire as her own. “This school made realize,” she says, “that I am much better than I thought I was.”

That’s a pretty fair bottom line for any school, although in the up-is-down world of public education in New York, it might just be an epitaph for this small marvel of a high school. Known as a transfer high school, Bushwick Community admits only those teenagers who have failed elsewhere. Most students enter at age 17 or 18, and most have fewer than 10 credits.

You can muck around quite a bit trying to find someone who has walked the school’s corridors, talked to its students and faculty, and come away unmoved. Most sound like Kathleen M. Cashin, a member of the State Board of Regents and a former superintendent. “They care for the neediest with love and rigor,” she said. “They are a tribute to public education.”

Here is how Bloomberg and the Tweedies see the school:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose insistence that he has presided over an educational miracle recognizes few bounds of contrary fact, has proposed laying off the principal and half the teachers before it can reopen for the next school year. City officials complain that a majority of students fail to graduate in six years.

But the school is not getting students until they're already 17 or 18 years old, many lacking most of their credits, so of course they're not going to graduate in six years.

The question ought to be, what does the school do with these students once they get them? How do they help them academically? How do they help them emotionally?

According to the Times article, Bushwick Community High School does amazing work:

The Education Department’s report card compares this school with other transfer schools, and gives it a 95 percent grade in improving student attendance, 90 percent for passing the English Regents exam and 100 percent for the math Regents.

All of which is fine, though not nearly as moving as listening to these teenagers talk of lives adrift until they washed ashore here.

Justin Soto, short and muscular with a goatee, raises his hand. “I had not passed a class since junior high school,” he says, as tears roll down his cheeks and a girl rubs his neck. “I’m 21, but I’m not a man yet. This school has given me a life.”

Ms. McAllister raises her hand. A year ago, she asked her teacher if she was smart enough to graduate. He spent an hour talking to her. Next year, she will attend Medgar Evers College. She, too, is crying.

“Failure was all I knew,” she says.

What, I ask, would you like to be?

“A teacher, oddly,” she says. “I mean, it’s inspiring when you know what you were and see what you are now.”

But because Bloomberg and his Gates Foundation functionaries at the NYCDOE only trust data, they have decided this school needs to be closed and the principal and 50% of the teachers need to be fired.

Michael Powell is the writer of this Times piece and he indicts the current reliance on metrics and numbers as the only thing that matters in education:

Public education across the nation has sunk deep into a bog of metrics. We presume to measure teaching and achievement as a chemist does a proper mixture of chemicals. To this conceit, you can add the draconian demands of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which offers millions of dollars in help for poor urban schools only if city officials adhere to the same unyielding metrics.

This is a particular problem for a transfer high school, whose faculty takes children bruised by years of neglect. Bushwick Community is run, in part, by its faculty members, who offer the usual collection of the smart, the eccentric and the deeply committed found in most schools that work.

To sit with a dozen of the students at a community center not far from the high school was to watch as one girl nursed a baby and another spoke of living with her child in a shelter. Two had been tossed out of their family homes. Another lived with her grandmother on Coney Island — she commutes one and a half hours each way to this high school in Bushwick.

These are nonlinear kids with nonlinear lives.

And yet, the school is going to be closed and 50% of the staff and the principal are going to be fired - all based on a unyielding set of metrics that doesn't really measure what the data people say it measures.

With the advent of a new teacher evaluation system based upon student test scores, with value-added measurements to be used on all teachers starting next year, with the addition of nine new state ELA and math tests, four new city math and ELA tests, and four tests each in social studies, science, foreign language and physical education in order to pull off these "metric-based teacher evaluations," you can be sure that there are going to be plenty more stories like this where teachers are going to be fired based upon "unyielding data."

What's worse, since the New York State legislature and the governor refuse to shield the new teacher evaluation system from FOILing, teachers will not only be fired for the unyielding, inflexible, error-riddled data, they're going to be publicly humiliated in the media as well, with names, photos and evaluation rankings published yearly.

Who do the politicians think is going to work at a school like Bushwick Community High School and try and help kids who need a "last chance" when the consequence will likely be public humiliation in the Post and News as they publish the names and photos of the CITY'S WORST TEACHERS and then firing courtesy of Cuomo, King, and Tisch?

Any teacher who stay in a system where only metrics and test scores matter is going to have to value only metrics and test scores.

As Arthur Goldstein pointed out in this New York Times piece yesterday
, that means teachers will be less likely to help students who need help because every student will be seen as nothing more than another point in a data set.

Is this what the pols want?

Is this what parents want?

Is this what students want?

Aniah McAllister says at the end of the Powell piece from the Times that she wants to be teacher now that she has seen the power that teachers have in transforming lives.

But in the Brave New System developed by Obama, Duncan, Bloomberg, Klein, Cuomo, Tisch, King, Gates, et al., teachers will not have that power anymore.

They will simply have to yield to the intractable data or be crushed.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New York State Teacher Evaluations Will Be Published In Media

Even Tennessee, not exactly a paragon of progressive thinking, is looking to shield teacher evaluations from the newspapers.

But not New York State.

Neither Governor Cuomo nor the Senate Republicans want to shield teachers from having their names, pictures and eval ratings in the papers:

State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said Monday there will be no restrictions on the public release of teacher evaluations.

The Daily News reported today that the issue of whether to limit public access to the teacher evaluations popped up in the last-minute budget negotiations over the weekend.

“There were discussions in terms of seeing if there was a way you could balance the parents’ right to know and some sort of [teacher] privacy rights, but there’s no resolution of that, so it will stay as it is,” Skelos just said outside the Senate chamber.

The information will be required to be made available under state Freedom of Information laws, he said.

He also doesn’t expect the matter to be revisited.

“I don’t see it in the budget; I don’t see it down the road,” Skelos said.

What do these politicians think is going to happen when the evaluations based upon a flawed VAM get published every year in the media?

Do they think this is going to improve teaching and learning?

Do they think this is going to improve schools?

Do they think this is going to bring an influx of quality people looking to be teachers?

Do they care about any of that?

Or do they simply want to scapegoat as many teachers as possible, fire as many as possible, and finish off privatizing the system?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Monsanto, Dow, Gates Foundation "Teach" Kids About The Wonders Of Biotechnology

From an activity book funded by the Council for Biotechnology Information:

"Hi Kids! This is an activity book for young people like you about biotechnology - a really neat topic. Why is it such a neat topic? Because biotechnology is helping to improve the health of the Earth and the people who call it home."

The Council for Biotechnology Information
is a non-profit 501c6 organization funded by Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, and other agri-chemical companies to "communicate science-based information about the benefits and safety of agricultural biotechnology and its contributions to sustainable development."

Thus the activity book for kids.

The message in the book?

Yummy - genetically modified Crunchy Sugar Bombs!!!! Mmmmm....good for you and good for the environment, kids!!!

Except, you know, none of that is true.

Oh, well - this wouldn't be the first Gates Foundation-funded education initiative to do harm.

And this one is partly Gates Foundation-funded - Monsanto helps to run the Council for Biotechnology Information and the Gates Foundation has 500,000 shares of Monsanto.

But hey, this is not about helping Monsanto and the other evil agri-chemical poisoners make more money by brainwashing children into thinking genetic engineering is swell.

This is about educating the kids for the 21st century economy!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

David Coleman And The Common Core Consortium Bring The Thomas Gradgrind Philosophy Of Education To The Nation

New York Public School Parents blog covered the coming disaster that is Common Core pretty well yesterday.

The developer of the ELA standards, David Coleman, a former McKinsey consultant and Gates Foundation functionary with no actual teaching experience, has decreed that "non-fiction" and "informational texts" will supplant any other kind of reading material in schools, that "testing conditions" for reading must be mimicked so that students cannot be asked their prior knowledge about a subject, cannot be introduced to reading passages before they actually read them, cannot be given any historical context whatsoever

because the prescribed Common Core’s close reading strategy “forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all.”

The new Common Core Curriculum decrees that 50% of texts read in K-5 be "informational texts." In 6-12, the prescribed percentage of informational texts is 75%.

You see, in the new global economy, only non-fiction, informational texts are privileged or valued; thus the new Common Core Curriculum prescribes just those kinds of texts.

In addition, reader response to texts is out. The Daily Censored sums up Coleman's approach to reading, response and emotion like this:

Common Core Curriculum Standards entrepreneur David Coleman is barnstorming the country claiming that schools need to de-emphasize fiction and obliterate any semblance of reader response. No feelings, no imaginations, no speculations: Just the facts, kid.

What children need, asserts Coleman, whose connection with what US public schoolchildren need is a masters degree from Oxford, is a close reading of “informational text.” That’s what he calls non-fiction. No opinion, no flights of fancy. No creation of new worlds. The teacher’s job is to make sure kids stick just to the text. Informational text, pronounces Coleman, is what will give students the world knowledge necessary to compete as workers in the Global Economy.

As Coleman so famously said at a panel of educators gathered at the New York State Department of Education in April 2011 to talk about the new Common Core standards,

“[A]s you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.”

You see, in Coleman's view, education is simply the tool to develop competent, efficient workers and so emotion, reaction, and personal perspective on things are found wanting.

Only facts and information matter:

As premier standards entrepreneur, Coleman is a busy man, having already co-written the Common Core State Curriculum Standards and the Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy[2]) . Coleman insists that teachers must train students to be workers in the Global Economy. In his words, “It is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.” Translation to the classroom: No more primary grade essays about lost teeth or middle school essays about prepubescent angst. Instead, students must provide critical analysis of the “Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s Republic, listed as an “exemplary informational text” in the Common Core State Standards for Language Arts.[3] If that’s judged as over the top for 12-year-olds, there’s always Ronald Reagan’s 1988 “Address to Students at Moscow State University.”

As I was thinking about this coming educational and societal disaster that has been pushed by the Obama administration and funded by Bill Gates and his malanthropic Gates Foundation, I couldn't help but be struck by an article I read in the Times about the new national rugby coach, Mike Tolkin, who is an English teacher at Xavier High School in New York.

The Times article (informational text, btw!) describes Tolkin teaching (shushhhhh, don't tell anybody!) Shakespeare:

Mike Tolkin, the newly appointed head coach of the United States men’s national rugby team, steps in front of his audience and begins speaking.

But there is no talk of drop goals or scrums. Rather, he deftly explains inverted syntax and figurative language. The topic is Shakespeare’s 18th sonnet, the one that begins, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day.” And the audience is a class of seniors at a Jesuit school in Manhattan, where Tolkin has spent more than 20 years as an English teacher.

The accompanying photo shows Tolkien teaching in front of a blackboard with (Omigod, how can such a school abuse its students this way!) a chalked outline on it.

No "smart" board there, no electronic media - just chalk, blackboard, Shakespeare, and discussion.

Clearly this man knows nothing from the Common Core and just what makes for good teaching. And clearly this must be a bad school that graduates barely literate cretins who cannot function in the globalized economy.

Because as the Common Core people keeping telling us, we must dispense with the old and the archaic, we must bring 21st Century technologies and ways of thinking and knowing the world to our classrooms or imprison students in an unemployable and impoverished future.

So it's time to throw out Shakespeare and revel in the minutes from Federal Reserve Open Committee meetings, preferably on iPads.

Interestingly enough, while the Common Core people like to promote their curriculum and philosophy of education as "cutting edge," there is something very familiar about a school of education that pushes nothing but facts and information.

Now please don't get upset with me, but I'm going to quote from a piece of fiction called Hard Times. And please don't misunderstand, but I'd like to give you some context - the novel was written by a fellow from the Victorian era named Charles Dickens.

Here is the relevant text, as published in 1854. It's long, but you can channel the Common Core approach by not having any feelings about the text as you read it or thinking about any of the context I just gave as background.


Chapter I — The One Thing Needful

“NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom, and the speaker’s square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster’s sleeve.


“In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!”

Chapter II — Murdering The Innocents

THOMAS GRADGRIND, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir — peremptorily Thomas — Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind - no, sir!

In such terms Mr Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whether to his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in general. In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words ‘boys and girls,’ for ‘sir,’ Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.

Indeed, as he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before mentioned, he seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away.

‘Girl number twenty,’ said Mr Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his square forefinger, ‘I don’t know that girl. Who is that girl?’

‘Sissy Jupe, sir,’ explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and curtseying.

‘Sissy is not a name,’ said Mr Gradgrind. ‘Don’t call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.’

‘It’s father as calls me Sissy, sir,’ returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another curtsey.

‘Then he has no business to do it,’ said Mr Gradgrind. ‘Tell him he mustn’t. Cecilia Jupe. Let me see. What is your father?’

‘He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir.’

Mr Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with his hand.

‘We don’t want to know anything about that, here. You mustn’t tell us about that, here. Your father breaks horses, don’t he?’

‘If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break horses in the ring, sir.’

‘You mustn’t tell us about the ring, here. Very well, then. Describe your father as a horsebreaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?’

‘Oh yes, sir.’

‘Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier, and horsebreaker. Give me your definition of a horse.’

(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)

‘Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!’ said Mr Gradgrind, for the general behoof of all the little pitchers. ‘Girl number twenty possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest of animals! Some boy’s definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours.’


‘Bitzer,’ said Thomas Gradgrind. ‘Your definition of a horse.’

‘Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.’ Thus (and much more) Bitzer.

‘Now girl number twenty,’ said Mr Gradgrind. ‘You know what a horse is.’

The Gradgrind theory of education, the David Coleman Common Core Curriculum.

Just the facts.

Just the information.

No feelings.

No thoughts.

No personal perspective.

That's Gradgrind's theory of education - but it's David Coleman's too.

It's what lies underneath the Common Core Curriculum, the education "reforms" pushed by Obama and Bloomberg and the other corporate reformers, the prevailing ideology promoted by the Gates Foundation.

So cutting edge a philosophy of education, the Common Core could have been around in 1854.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Quote of the Day

"A sociopath in charge of what is called a charity remains a sociopath." -- From the comments of this article on Bill Gates, "philanthropy," and genetically engineered food.

Criminals Running New York Post Attack Teachers Again

Yesterday a group of teachers protested outside the News Corporation offices over the release of the fatally-flawed, error-riddled Teacher Data Reports in the New York media.

News Corp. was chosen as the site of the protest because former Chancellor Klein had been the prime proponent of the reports and he now works for News Corporation as the head of its for-profit online education division. Klein has also been running the internal News Corporation response to the phone hacking/police bribery scandal that has been plaguing the company over in England and has seen over 40 employees arrested.

The Teacher Data Reports have been shown to have a maximum margin of error of 75% for math, 87% for ELA. The Daily News reported earlier this week that the NYCDOE itself warned superintendents not to trust the reports at the low end and high end of the bell curve because of unreliability.

None of this stopped the ethically-challenged Post from attacking teachers for exercising their free speech rights to protest the release and publishing of the Teacher Data Reports. None of this stopped the ethically-challenged Post from defending the Teacher Data Reports as "the best attempts we have nationally to grade teachers" either, even though the Post editors acknowledge that

Sure, the grading is imperfect, as the union points out.

But no one can fairly argue that teachers who are ranked among the very best in the city are actually big-time losers — or that the lowest-scoring are, in fact, superstars in the classroom.

Actually, Post editors, the DOE itself argued just that to superintendents internally when it told them to be wary making tenure decisions based upon the reports. Here's a Daily News article from Monday March 19, 2012 detailing that:

Education officials lacked confidence in the controversial ratings of teachers who oversaw the city’s highest- and lowest-performing students, cautioning schools about considering them in tenure decisions, the Daily News has learned.

The city Education Department called superintendents last spring about the shakiness of ratings for teachers at the very top and bottom of the spectrum, which 33% of all ratings, including those of teachers not up for tenure, fell into.

And all of the teachers at more than 30 schools fell into this category, a News analysis finds.

Officials said the ratings were unreliable for teachers whose classes had an average score above 3.4 or below 1.68 out of 4 on the state math and reading exams, because the tests are meant to measure students in the middle and not subtle changes among the highest and lowest performers.

For teachers with classes at the top or bottom, ratings could increase or decrease by 20 points if a class of students, on average, got one more question right or wrong.

Nearly 3,900 of 11,800 multiyear ratings for all teachers in 2009-10 were based on these classes — meaning they were outside the range the city deemed reliable.

So here we have the Post arguing that NOBODY can say top ranking teachers on the TDR's are bad or low ranking teachers are good when the DOE itself told superintendents last Spring that the ratings for teachers at the very top and the very bottom of the spectrum were unreliable.

The Post editors/criminals/phone hackers argue that the teachers who showed up outside News Corporation offices to protest the TDR's are bad teachers trying to defend themselves against accountability.

Not so Post editors/criminals/phone hackers.

The teachers who showed up yesterday outside your offices were pointing out the fatally-flawed nature of the value-added voodoo the NYCDOE used in the Teacher Data Reports - facts that Post readers would not get from the New York Post itself because it chose not to tell readers the truth.

In addition, if the Post editors/criminals/phone hackers are so concerned about accountability, they ought to start by looking at their own company and their own employees who have engaged in so much criminal activity that four separate criminal investigations have been opened - three in Britain, one in the U.S.

At the crux of the investigations in Britain is the allegation that News Corporation used its newspapers to corrupt the political process and to promote its own agendas by buying off politicians, police and bureaucrats, hacking into people's phones and computers illegally and using that information to score political and/or journalistic points while paying off the authorities that were supposed to investigate these activities and hold the company accountable for breaches in the law.

What the New York Post has done here by attacking honest working teachers for protesting the error-riddled (and I would say any report with a maximum MOE of 87% is "error-riddled") TDR's is tantamount to what the News Corporation papers did over in Britain.

They are corrupting the political process by using their newspaper to promote a flawed and damaging evaluation system for teachers while ignoring the inconvenient facts like rampant instability, high margins of error, and the DOE's own warnings about the unreliability of the reports.

We'll see how the criminal investigations against News Corporation turn out.

So far, 40 News Corp. employees including former News International chief Rebekah Brooks and former News of the World editor and aide to Prime Minister Cameron Andy Coulson have been arrested in the scandal.

James Murdoch, son of Post owner and News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch is next on the list to be arrested, as is Rupert Murdoch's former right hand man, Les Hinton (the ex-publisher of the Wall Street Journal.)

If you only read the New York Post, you would have no idea that any of this is going on because the Post chooses not to report these things to its readers.

(Though the Murdoch-owned WSJ does, it has been accused of slanting the truth to make the company look better.)

Instead the Post chooses to slander and smear teachers with error-riddled TDR numbers and other lies and mistruths.

Frankly, given how News Corporation has been run, the editors/criminals/phone hackers at the New York Post ought to be worrying less about teachers protesting outside their offices and more about police investigating the criminal activities of its own employees - including the ones at the highest level of the comapny.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Another Bloomberg Scandal - the 911 Emergency System That Is $1 Billion Overbudget

Bloomberg said New Yorkers had to overturn term limits and give him a third term as mayor because only his fiscal genius could save the city from financial ruin.

He said this even as the CityTime crooks were stealing $700 million from the city, various DOE crooks were stealing tens of millions, the GPS system for the NYFD and Sanitation Departments were showing trucks in the East River at a cost of $17 million and the NYCHA computer system was causing tons of problems even though Bloomberg had spent $34 million on it.

Now comes another scandal - the 911 emergency system:

City Hall aides repeatedly bungled supervision of a massive upgrade of the 911 system, even as the project fell years behind schedule and its cost ballooned by as much as $1 billion, an audit has found.

When Mayor Bloomberg launched the 911 project in 2004, he promised a seamless system that would replace antiquated police, fire and EMS call-taking and dispatch functions with 21st century technology. It had a price tag of $1.3 billion and was supposed to be done in three years.

City Hall now concedes the cost has zoomed to at least $2 billion, and Controller John Liu will claim Wednesday that the price tag is closer to $2.3 billion.

Liu will also release an audit that concludes management failures dogged the multiagency project almost from the start. It blames City Hall aides for repeatedly failing to address the problems.

"Key decisions are not being made in a timely manner," warned the Gartner Group, the city's own quality control consultant on the project.

Its memo urged "active participation by City Hall" in resolving the conflicts.

Much like the notorious CityTime payroll project, the 911 upgrade kept devouring astonishing amounts of money while getting delayed.

A new Brooklyn 911 center that was supposed to be finished in 2007 did not become fully operational until late last year. A second emergency center originally scheduled for the same time in the Bronx - as a backup in case of terrorist attack or natural disaster - will not be ready until 2015.


By May 2009, Gartner's warnings became more dire about the mushrooming costs and continuing lack of direction on the project.

The interagency steering committee had "little or no participation by City Hall representatives," Gartner wrote in May 2009. "All City Hall meetings have been canceled."

By then, it was clear that some major vendors on the project, such as Verizon and Hewlett-Packard had provided equipment and technology that was performing inadequately, the audit said.

Hewlett-Packard was eventually bounced as the project's chief system integrator, and the city is demanding more than $50 million from Verizon for the delays it caused.

In her official response to Liu's audit, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Carole Post did not object to any of its findings.

"The city long ago identified the issues raised in the current audit, and had taken the measures necessary to address them," Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said in a statement.

There you have it - another example of Bloomberg's fiscal genius (i.e., the stealing of public money for private gain) at work.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NY Times Fluff Piece On Mulgrew And Mayoral Hopefuls

Jive article published in today's Times that clearly came right from Mulgrew's p.r. people that says the UFT is going to endorse a candidate for 2013 and that all the mayoral hopefuls, announced and unannounced, are jockeying for his favor.

Pardon me for being redundant, but what horsehockey.

The reality is, the candidates will say whatever they need to say to the municipal unions in general and to the UFT in particular BEFORE the primary in order to garner an endorsement, then do whatever the hell the DFER's and the hedge fundies want AFTER the election.

Doesn't matter if it's Quinn, Stringer, de Blasio or Thompson - the hedge fundies make all the calls on education policy and a lot of other policies in this city and you can be sure that won't stop once Bloomberg leaves office.

If anybody thinks the corporatizing of the school system and the demonizing of teachers as THE problem in education are going to end once Bloomberg leaves and is replaced by Quinn, Stringer, de Blasio or Thompson, I've got a for-profit charter school chain I'd like to sell them.

As always, hope to be wrong on this kind of thing.

But I doubt I will be.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Common Core Consortium Calls For 9 Tests A Year In ELA And Math

Here's the end game of the accountability movement and its testing regimen:

Changes to the state’s testing program could leave public- schools kids in grades 3 through to 11 taking as many as nine exams per year in English and math — more than four times the current number, officials said yesterday.

The potential jump comes from New York’s participation in a federally funded consortium of 25 states that’s seeking to make exams computer-based, more challenging and administered several times per year.

The latest consortium plan calls for students to be tested as many as four times annually in math and five times a year in reading, starting in 2014.

Currently students take only one exam in each subject, and only in grades 3 through 8.


Concerns about the amount and cost of testing have already prompted the consortium, known as The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, to mark four of the nine exams as “optional.”

The state Board of Regents will have approval over the final plan before it’s adopted here.

Recent changes to the state’s teacher-evaluation framework are also going to require students to be tested — perhaps several times a year — in other subjects, including science and social studies.

The testing expansion is necessary because student performance on state tests and other assessments must count toward 40 percent of teacher ratings starting next year under state law.

“It’s clearly going to be a lot more testing,” said education advocate Leonie Haimson, director of Class Size Matters.

“[Education officials’] answer to everything is just more tests.”

Indeed, that is the answer for everything in education reform.

And of course because President Obama, who says there is too much teaching to the test, has put in place an education policy that promotes multiple high stakes standardized tests in every subject in every grade K-12, and because the New York legislature took him up on his $700 million Race to the Top blood money, and because we have a governor in this state who is in the pockets of the testing industry and the hedge fund managers/education reformers, we are going to get more and more tests that will be used almost solely to grade schools and fire teachers.

As I keep saying, it is going to be a dark decade before these catastrophic policies finally end.

And they will eventually end - even the gullible American public will eventually figure out endless testing in every subject over and over ever year in order to fire teachers and close schools is a stupid, damaging thing.

But there will be a lot of children hurt by these policies, perhaps a whole generation.

And of course there will be a lot of damaged reputations of teachers and ruined careers too.

That's the future Barack Obama has brought us - CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN.

This is also the future Andrew Cuomo has brought us here in New York.

Endless Testing.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Daily News: Superintendents Warned By The DOE That The Teacher Data Reports Were Unreliable For Tenure Decisions

Okay, I think this ought to rank as a bombshell considering how Bloomberg and Tweed were happy to have the news media publish these TDR's with names and photos attached:

Education officials lacked confidence in the controversial ratings of teachers who oversaw the city’s highest- and lowest-performing students, cautioning schools about considering them in tenure decisions, the Daily News has learned.

The city Education Department called superintendents last spring about the shakiness of ratings for teachers at the very top and bottom of the spectrum, which 33% of all ratings, including those of teachers not up for tenure, fell into.

And all of the teachers at more than 30 schools fell into this category, a News analysis finds.

Officials said the ratings were unreliable for teachers whose classes had an average score above 3.4 or below 1.68 out of 4 on the state math and reading exams, because the tests are meant to measure students in the middle and not subtle changes among the highest and lowest performers.

For teachers with classes at the top or bottom, ratings could increase or decrease by 20 points if a class of students, on average, got one more question right or wrong.

Nearly 3,900 of 11,800 multiyear ratings for all teachers in 2009-10 were based on these classes — meaning they were outside the range the city deemed reliable.

Education Department spokeswoman Barbara Morgan warned superintendents of the 27 teachers in this category who were up for tenure last year.

“We shared this lesson with our schools and with the state as it creates a new model for teacher evaluations,” she said.

And yet they still provided those TDR's to the media to publish with names and photos attached under headlines like NEW YORK'S WORST TEACHERS.

So will the the state do any better with this VAM voodoo?


And under this new Cuomo-driven evaluation system, teachers will be fired if they come up rated "ineffective" on a value-added measurement PLUS they'll get their names and photo in the paper under headlines like NEW YORK'S WORST TEACHERS.

I'm sure this "scientific" and "objective" system of evaluation will improve education.

I'm sure it will bring in many quality teachers to the state as well.

I mean, who wouldn't want to subject themselves to a voodoo VAM system with high margins of error (as high as 87% in the TDR's) and wide swings in variability and educrats happy to give these numbers out the media and base high stakes personnel decisions on them even though they know they are garbage?

Reclaiming The Luddites

I went to a discussion at the Left Forum on Saturday called The Luddites, Without Condescension. Peter Linebaugh and Ian Boal were the panelists. I had read Linebaugh's The London Hanged and have his Magna Carta Manifesto on my ebook ready to for my next read, so I was looking forward to hearing the discussion.

Linebaugh has a new pamphlet out on the Luddites called "Ned Ludd and Queen Mab: Machine-breaking, Romanticism, and the Several Commons of 1811-12," (PM Press: Retort Pamphlet Series #1) The pamphlet looks to take back the term Luddite from the slur which both left and right use to mean technophobes who are afraid of the future and instead place the Luddites in the context of, as Mike Davis puts it in a blurb on the back of the pamphlet, "the avant-garde of a planetary resistance movement against capitalist enclosures in the long struggle for a different future."

As a teacher who is being asked to use more and more technology in every single lesson - from "smart" boards to computers to social media to an online, real-time grade book that students are encouraged to check daily - I am feeling a slave to technological tools these days and can fully appreciate the Luddite movement's push to save their way of life from the encroaching industrialization that would ruin them, their families and their communities.

It's interesting, though, that any time I say something like this to people (including to somebody yesterday at the Left Forum who was not at the Luddite discussion), they automatically assume that if you identify with the Luddites in any way, you are some backward-looking technophobe putz.

I have no problem with new technologies. I have a problem with a preponderance of new technologies that allow the elite to exploit labor 24/7, that harm the physical, spiritual and emotional lives of individuals, that isolate communities, that allow for the increasing corporatization of the society and the culture.

Forcing teachers to use technology in a classroom just because the tools are available and Joel Klein, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg stand to make money off the techno game in some way is NOT a good enough reason to me.

I have long refrained from using all media - including TV and film - in my classroom unless those things were called for and would enhance the lesson in some way.

I prefer live, person-to-person communication - whether it be a class-wide discussion, group work or pair share - and reading, writing, speaking, and listening to watching something on the TV or computer, unless that's called for (recently I showed a Tennessee Williams play after the play was read and discussed - that use of electronic media was called for to enhance the lessons.)

Now that's just me. I don't push that stuff on others, just as I don't want them to push their teaching preferences on me.

But I will tell you, I resent these Common Core standards funded by some dehumanized computer monopolist with the socio-emotional skills of a three year old that push technology use as both a means and an end to themselves in the classroom.

We are real live beings in a real live world with real live thoughts and feelings. Promoting virtual worlds and virtual education as "the future" seems to me to be as destructive to the human soul as anything the industrialists pushed on the artisans back in the early 1800's.

So I found yesterday's discussion quite appropriate for my own experience in education these days.

Capital pushes "science" and "technology" as the "future," but the science and technology they push promote commodification of the individual, the exploitation of labor and the expropriation of the commons.

These are not outcomes I wish for myself, for my students or for my world and I see it as my job to at least offer an alternative view to my students of a future where after spending some time in their virtual worlds, they can turn the technology off, get their feet onto the actual ground and live in the real world.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Finally, A Contemporary Hollywood Film About Education That Doesn't Scapegoat Teachers

Usually whenever the clown show that is Morning Joe takes on the education issue, it's a teacher bash festival.

But Adrien Brody, the lead in Tony Kaye's new film about a substitute teacher in NYC called Detachment, brought some reality to the Morning Joe set by explaining teachers do not have the sole responsibility for educating and bringing up children - parents and communities have the responsibility for that too.

I haven't seen this film yet, but I'd like to.

I particularly identified with the teacher character healing his own emotional pain by helping others to heal theirs.

How do you measure that with a value-added score, Governor Cuomo?

How do you assess that with a standardized test, Mayor Bloomberg?

Do you realize that millions of children are coming to school each day heart-sick and hurt from the awful things they see and experience daily in their homes and neighborhoods, President Obama?

Do you think adding dozens of standardized tests to the curriculum from K-12 is going to solve these socio-emotional problems children are facing?

Will these tests help relieve the fear and anger so many children carry around in them?

Do you think holding teachers accountable for scores and taking counselors away from counseling and making them bean counters for graduation is going to help, Chancellor Walcott?

Does replacing a human teacher with a computer help this, Mr. Gates?

The truth is, Bloomberg, Cuomo, Gates, Obama, Rhee, Klein, Walcott, et al. - these are all emotionally-stunted and detached people themselves, so of course they do not value socio-emotional education or learning.

They must be emotionally stunted and detached to promote the heartless, mindless education policies they are pushing on the nation.

But I will tell you, until this society and culture comes to the realization that so many of our problems are spiritual and emotional, not financial, academic or intellectual, we will continue to go down the road to destruction.

We are a nation without a heart and without a soul and all the technological innovation in the world isn't going to solve that.

Occupy's Sixth Month Anniversary

Seems like old times, doesn't it?

Occupy Wall Street protesters’ numbers swelled Saturday night as they prepared to spend the night in the lower Manhattan park where their movement began, but cops forced them out before Zuccotti was reoccupied.

Demonstrators regrouped in Zuccotti Park just hours after a half-dozen of their number were arrested as they marked the movement’s six-month anniversary, police and demonstrators said.

Michael Moore, the documentary filmmaker, made an appearance at the park, wandering among protesters after giving a speech at a Socialist forum nearby.

“We are unstoppable; another world is possible,” chanted some of the hundreds of demonstrators crammed into Zuccotti Park in the afternoon.

I was at the Left Forum yesterday - a lot of good energy and good people there.

More on that soon.

As for the Zuccotti news, I am glad to see that as the global-warming induced weather is heating up, so is the Occupy movement.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bloomberg Outraged By NY Times Publishing Goldman Sachs Resignation Letter

The Mayor of the 1% criticized the New York Times for publishing Greg Smith's resignation letter to Goldman Sachs this week:

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, said on Friday that not even God could lead Goldman Sachs without criticism, as he defended the investment bank’s head after a rare attack from within its own ranks.

Goldman has been battling a stream of negative press since Greg Smith, a middle-ranking derivatives salesman, resigned on Tuesday, publicly accusing Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive, of presiding over a “toxic” culture in which bankers were “ripping off clients” and referring to customers as “muppets”.

Mr Bloomberg said the attack on Mr Blankfein was ridiculous. “He’s trying to lead this firm at a time when God couldn’t lead it without being criticised,” the billionaire mayor, who started his own career as an investment banker, told the Financial Times.


The New York mayor, who founded one of the world’s biggest financial news and data organisations which counts Goldman among its clients, said “someday you can tell me” why The New York Times published the article, adding that it was “beyond me”.

That view was echoed by James Gorman, chief executive of Goldman rival Morgan Stanley, who also attacked the newspaper for publishing Mr Smith’s unsolicited article.

“To pick a random employee, I just don’t think it’s fair and I didn’t think it was balanced,” he said at an event hosted by Fortune magazine. “There but for the grace of God go us.”

Ah yes, these paragons of capitalism are so offended by the Times publishing Smith's resignation letter and making Goldman look like the evil company it is, but somehow they're not offended by New York City going back on its word by releasing the Teacher Data Reports that use a value-added measurement with a maximum margin of error of 87% to the press so that the NY Post and other papers could slander individual teachers with headlines like NEW YORK'S WORST TEACHERS.


It's also not a surprise that the Masters of the Universe who like to dish the abuse out can't take it when it's leveled back at them - in this case, quite fairly.

As the Bloomberg-owned Businessweek reported on March 15, Goldman Sachs is scummy at best in it's business practices.

Nothing Smith said was out of line and hasn't been reported before about Goldman.

It wasn't like his letter has a margin of error in it, let alone a MOE of 87%.

Yet somehow Bloomberg and Blankfein and the crook running Morgan Stanley are offended by the truth showing up in the Times.

Bloomberg Compares Goldman CEO To God

Well, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein did say he's just a banker who does "God's work", so I guess it's not beyond the pale that Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of the 1%, compared Blankfein to God today:

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, said on Friday that not even God could lead Goldman Sachs without criticism, as he defended the investment bank’s head after a rare attack from within its own ranks.


Mr Bloomberg said the attack on Mr Blankfein was ridiculous. “He’s trying to lead this firm at a time when God couldn’t lead it without being criticised,” the billionaire mayor, who started his own career as an investment banker, told the Financial Times.

Poor Lloyd Blankfein.

Won't the mean people just stop picking on this good-hearted philanthropist and the company he leads?

Thank the heavens the Mayor of the 1% is there to defend poor defenseless Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman Sachs.

Bloomberg Uses Charter Schools Like A Cancer To Privatize The School System

A nice opinion piece in the Times by a parent of a student at PS 261 about the harm charters do to public schools:

MY daughter is a kindergarten pupil at P.S. 261 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. She started there in September, and she loves everything about it: her friends, her teachers and her school-related activities, like Girl Scouts. Intense excitement accompanied both the post office project earlier this year and the Halloween Day Characters Parade, in which her class dressed up as the Three Little Pigs.

A few weeks ago, for three days in a row starting at 3 p.m., a representative from the Success Academy charter school that is scheduled to open this fall in adjacent Cobble Hill stood outside the doors of P.S. 261, handing out fliers and attempting to recruit its students. On day two, outraged teachers asked the man to leave. He refused. On day three, a loose group of teachers, parents and students occupied the sidewalk next to him. Heated words were exchanged. It wasn’t until the next day, when a schoolwide rally unfolded in the front yard — and cameras from NY1 arrived — that the representative vanished. I can’t help wondering if this is the educational future that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had in mind when, in his State of the City address earlier this year, he called for 50 new charter schools to open in the next two years.

Here in the Brownstone Belt, most elementary schools are overwhelmingly populated either by poor minorities or middle- to upper-middle-class whites. P.S. 261 is one of a minority of Brooklyn primary schools that manages to be truly diverse — racially, ethnically and economically. While 35 percent of its student body qualifies for free lunch, it also attracts and retains children from professional families of all races and creeds, who work in law, media and the arts.

If Success Academy succeeds in luring away even a fraction of 261’s students, however, it could well create a snowball effect in which its middle-class population ends up fleeing. In New York City, school budgets are determined in part by the number of students who attend. So fewer kids at P.S. 261 would mean less money for the principal to spend on everything from teachers to class trips.


The apparent reason for opening a charter school in a gentrified neighborhood like Cobble Hill (or the Upper West Side, where a Success Academy opened last year) is to bring more middle-class and upper-middle-class families into the publicly funded charter system. But if the Success Academy succeeds in its mission, it could well end up destroying schools like P.S. 261 that already succeed in attracting these families. My daughter’s new friends include the children of both marketing executives and maintenance workers. At drop-off recently, I watched as she and a friend who lives in a nearby housing project walked hand in hand down the hall. In its promise of a more just world, the sight made me almost teary-eyed. I wonder how much longer those kinds of scenes will prevail.

The communities of Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill overwhelmingly do not support a charter in the neighborhood. (The same is true in Williamsburg, where, despite a huge outcry, another Success Academy was recently rubber-stamped.) This has been made abundantly clear at both community meetings and those for the Panel for Educational Policy. Perhaps the mayor believes he knows better than the thousands of families who have come out to voice their opposition. But then, wasn’t the whole point of the “school choice” movement to give power back to the parents?


The existing schools in which they set up shop suffer both in terms of resources (only so many kids can fit in the lunchroom at one time) and morale. If the Cobble Hill Success Academy opens as planned in the Brooklyn School for Global Studies, which also houses a second high school and a special-needs program, in five years the building will be at 108 percent capacity — unless, of course, the other schools shrivel up and die.

Call us paranoid, but parents like me are starting to wonder whether Mayor Bloomberg’s larger goal isn’t to privatize the entire New York City public school system. Why else would he be foisting charters on communities that don’t want them? And how else can he justify diverting tax dollars to organizations that employ people to blanket neighborhoods with advertisements and try to poach students from public schools that are already thriving?

It's not paranoia - that is EXACTLY the mayor's larger goal.

It's also the goal of the Obama administration, the Gates Foundation, the Cuomo/Pearson Education administration, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation, every hedge fund manager/education reformer you can name, Rupert Murdoch/News Corp., Mort Zuckerman, the Washington Post/Kaplan Company, NBC/Comcast/University of Phoenix and so many of the other people involved in education reform.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg Visits Goldman To Lift Spirits Of Crooked Bankers

Is he the Mayor of New York City or the Mayor of Goldman Sachs?

On Wednesday, accomplished table tennis player Greg Smith announced in a New York Times Op-Ed that he was quitting his job at investment firm Goldman Sachs, because the firm’s “culture” has become, at some point in the last 12 years, “toxic.” Goldman Sachs responded with a spirited P.R. campaign in which it claimed that Smith was not actually a very important person to the firm, and a leaked memo from Lloyd Blankfein in which he argued that Goldman could not possibly be evil because a recent internal survey proved that Goldman employees enjoy working at Goldman.

Despite that very good spin, Goldman Sachs lost $2 billion worth of market value as its shares fell 3.4 in trading over the course of the day (“oh man, some guy says Goldman Sachs is evil? I HAD NO IDEA” — the market). Thankfully, one hero stands ready to defend Goldman Sachs from public scorn: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg actually visited Goldman Sachs headquarters today to personally cheer up very sad bankers. Bloomberg met with Goldman head Blankfein and various other members of the 1 percent, in order to reassure them that they are good people who do good work, even though that is a ridiculous delusion that only fellow members of that class still believe.

“The mayor stopped by to make clear that the company is a vital part of the city’s economy, and the kind of unfair attacks that we’re seeing can eventually hurt all New Yorkers,” Bloomberg’s spokesman said. Bloomberg is a billionaire mogul who owns a financial information company, so Goldman Sachs and other major financial institutions are a vital part of his economy.

Bloomberg continued to defend Goldman Sachs on his radio program:

“I don’t know whoever said what,” Bloomberg said on WOR Radio’s John Gambling Show.

“But even if it was said, it’s a few people and, you know, Goldman Sachs is a firm that’s been around for well over a hundred years and it’s a great firm.”

“It’s my job to stand up and support companies that are here in the city that bring us a tax base that employ our people and I’m going to do that.”

He called news coverage of the letter “ridiculous” and “not something we should do.”

There you have it - Bloomberg defends news organizations printing Teacher Data Reports that use a value-added measurement for evaluations with a maximum margin of error of 87% but says there's no way the NY Times should have published Smith's resignation letter and harsh criticism of Goldman or the media should have covered the story.

Alex Pareene at Salon points out that Bloomberg Views, the propaganda wing of Bloomberg News that hired Jonathan Alter and a bunch of other public relations specialists for the 1%, also defended Goldman Sachs while attacking Smith:

“Bloomberg View,” the opinion arm of Mr. Bloomberg’s media company that operates out of the offices of his charity, also defended Goldman in an unsigned editorial mocking Smith for failing to realize that Goldman exists to make money by any means necessary, which is obviously a self-evident Good Thing for The Economy and The Country. “If you want to dedicate your life to serving humanity, do not go to work for Goldman Sachs,” the Editors write. Then: “Goldman and other investment banks do perform an important role in our economy, and Goldman bankers — most of them, at least — can hold their heads up high.” I am sure they are relieved to hear they have Bloomberg View’s vote of confidence.

But Bloomberg Businessweek took Goldman to task for being, you know, crooks:

During the Great Depression, the then-small partnership on Pine Street became a target of national ridicule because of a scandal involving the Goldman Sachs Trading Corp., a publicly traded investment trust that blew up after the stock market crash of 1929.

For years, comedian Eddie Cantor, who had lost $100,000 and sued Goldman Sachs for $100 million, made the firm a running joke in his stand-up routines. In one of his bits, Cantor would appear onstage with a stooge who tried to squeeze juice from a dry lemon.

“Who are you?” Cantor would ask. Without missing a beat, the stooge would say, “The margin clerk for Goldman Sachs.”

Ever since being subjected to Cantor’s barbs, Goldman Sachs has cultivated an image not just as Wall Street’s preeminent firm but also as a paragon of financial virtue. But Goldman’s supposedly pristine reputation has always been more invented than earned, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its March 19 issue.

Read the rest of the Bloomberg Businessweek article - it shows you exactly the kind of crooked culture Smith was talking about at Goldman.

Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg needs to go to the Bloomberg Businessweek offices and give a stern warning to the editors there to stop saying nasty things about poor Goldman Sachs and it's merry men.

Or maybe Bloomberg can mind his own business and stop defending crooked behavior on Wall Street.

Nah - that'll never happen.

Instead he'll launch unfair attacks on teachers by giving error-riddled test score data with a MOE of 87% to the media to publish and fire 50% of teachers and close as many schools as he can before he leaves office.

Yeah, that's Mayor Bloomberg all right - the Mayor of Goldman Sachs, the Mayor of the 1%.

Bash teachers, defend crooked bankers.

New Yorkers ought to start giving Bloomberg the approval they gave him after the Bloomberg Blizzard of 2010.

Or the greeting they gave him in Rockaway.

Or the one in Harlem on MLK Jr. Day.

Frankly, this arrogant oligarch deserves nothing less.

The Principals Continue The Fight Against The New Evaluation System

From Schoolbook:

So far 1,400 principals from across the state have signed an online letter calling on the state to reassess the way it is going about evaluating teachers.

On Thursday, state officials announced that the governor and legislative leaders had agreed to turn a deal between the governor and the teachers’ unions establishing a framework for a new teacher evaluation system into law.

Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School and a founder of the protest group, said:

We are disappointed but not shocked. I am surprised that the legislature would want to approve a point band in legislation in which a teacher could be rated effective in both student achievement categories, receive 46 out of 60 overall, and yet be rated ineffective overall. We will continue our efforts to educate the legislature, the public and educators regarding the flaws of APPR and how it will negatively impact our students and our schools. This Tuesday we will run a full page ad in the Legislative Gazette explaining our concerns. In the coming weeks we will continue to educate taxpayers, educators and parents. Our numbers continue to grow at an accelerated pace.

In a news release about the ad campaign, the organization says:

Although these principals agree that evaluations should be improved, they are dismayed by the rapid pace, high costs, unfinished nature and lack of research associated with the APPR system. In addition, while they recognize that school-wide achievement results are critical, they are concerned by the growing number of standardized tests that are being imposed on our students in part to measure their teacher’s performance. Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School, stated: “A teacher evaluation system that has not been piloted and relies heavily on student test scores is a poor indicator of teacher quality. Students and communities will lose, while consultants and other vendors will profit from the excessive testing of students.”

When it becomes apparent what a mess this thing is, will Governor Cuomo be held accountable for the harm he causes to children, teachers and schools?