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This is Not the Future I Want for My Grandchildren

May 23, 2018 Leave a comment

Watching our nation’s response to the horrific shootings that are taking place in our public schools today leads me to think we are training our children to accept restrictions to their liberty that anyone supporting a free and open democracy would find appalling.

If every school in the nation adopts the recommendations put forth by the politicians and pundits who are bowing to the NRA, our future citizens WILL retain the right to acquire and use any weapon they want to have. However, in exchange for this inalienable right, our uniformed school children will be required to spend 12 years in institutions where their entry to an enclosed compound requires airport-style security. Once inside the institution the children will be monitored by cameras, subjected to random searches, overseen by armed police and armed classroom teachers, and profiled by government officials for mental health issues. When they return home, the government would monitor their social media looking for evidence of mental instability that might warrant their exclusion from the institution.

All of these proposals to “improve school safety” are a consequence of how our political leaders frame the problem. Because our politicians see security and people as the problem, they are considering legislation to “harden” schools by securing entries and exits and providing surveillance cameras. They are considering legislation to arm more adults in the school. They are considering extensive mental health screening and monitoring of social media.

The result of our current thinking is that we are raising a generation of students who are comfortable with the government monitoring them 24/7, working in an environment where they are monitored by armed guards, and being protected from those who might pose a threat based on government screening for mental health.

 

But creating this “safe” environment is presumably worth it because when they are old enough, these same schoolchildren will be able to acquire any weapons they wish to purchase— that is, unless they “pose a threat”.

 

This is not the future I want for my grandchildren.

 

Wayne Gersen

Etna, NH

 

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‘User Manual for Authoritarian Surveillance’: ACLU Red Alert as Amazon Peddles Facial Recognition Tool to Police

May 22, 2018 Leave a comment

What this article DOESN’T say is that by installing surveillance devices in most of our public schools we are conditioning children to live in a world where this is OK…

Source: ‘User Manual for Authoritarian Surveillance’: ACLU Red Alert as Amazon Peddles Facial Recognition Tool to Police

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‘Once Again, Hurting Children’: GAO Approves Trump’s Plan to Take $7 Billion Back From Kids’ Health Program

May 22, 2018 Leave a comment

This should be no surprise to anyone who is paying attention to the GOP’s plan to cut entitlements. If we don’t complain too much about needy children, expect to see Medicare and Medicaid cuts soon… Changes in the tax cuts for billionaires? Unlikely…

Source: ‘Once Again, Hurting Children’: GAO Approves Trump’s Plan to Take $7 Billion Back From Kids’ Health Program

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Arne Duncan Has One Good Idea: A Parent Boycott to Demand Better Gun Control

May 22, 2018 Leave a comment

Readers of the blog know that I generally do not support any ideas that come from former United States Department of Education chief Arne Duncan, whose Race to the Top initiative used billions of dollars to promote the test-and-punish reforms launched by No Child Left Behind. Yesterday, though, Mr. Duncan came up with an idea that these disparate times call for: he endorsed an idea advanced by former assistant education secretary in the Obama administration, Peter Cunningham, who wrote, “Maybe it’s time for America’s 50 million school parents to simply pull their kids out of school until we have better gun laws.”

Newsweek magazine reported Mr. Duncan’s Twitter reaction to Mr. Cunningham yesterday:

“This is brilliant, and tragically necessary. What if no children went to school until gun laws changed to keep them safe? My family is all in if we can do this at scale. Parents, will you please join us?” tweeted Duncan in response to former education assistant Peter Cunningham’s essay urging parents to “demand common sense gun laws” by forcing Congress to act in an election year. Cunningham cited polls showing two in three Americans support stricter gun laws, but that Congress won’t act on reforming firearm legislation unless they fear being voted out of office.

Mr. Cunningham staked out his ideas for “common sense gun laws” in his essay as follows:

“What if every parent in America kept their children home from school on September 4 until Congress passed a package of gun laws that currently enjoy overwhelming support? That includes background checks for all gun purchases, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and funding for gun research,” he proposed.

The devil of this movement is in the details, because the NRA is undoubtedly writing material now that will define “common sense gun laws” like “banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines” as “confiscating everyone’s weapons” and “funding for gun research” as some kind of wild-eyed conspiracy plot by “liberal elites” to establish the same result. The slippery slope argument… the argument that “first they came for our guns” as depicted in the posters below… will rear its ugly head. But from where I sit, if we do not restrict the “rights” of gun owners we will continue to erode the “rights” of school children to attend schools without fear… and when that right disappears we will training our children to live in a world of fear and not a world of compassion. We can’t let that happen.

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Sad and Frustrating: 10 Dead and 10 Injured at Santa Fe Texas HS… and the Solution? Close Off Exits and Monitor Social Media!

May 21, 2018 Leave a comment

A Truthdig article by Jacob Sugarman describes the fruitlessness of our current policies on school safety.

Santa Fe HS in Texas did everything by the book to prepare for a “shooter”… and yet their school was the site of the latest horrific mass killing. They had two armed guards, one of whom was unsurprisingly among the first people shot by the teenage gunman. They had a well conceived evacuation plan, which did no good to the 19 others who were shot by the gunman. Their surveillance cameras captured some of the mayhem, but protected none of the victims.

So… after hearing calls to arm teachers, install cameras, install fences around schools, and install sophisticated door locks, what next? Alternet reported on Texas Lt. Governor Patrick’s “solution”:

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made comments that struck many as bizarre. While discussing ways to address the problem of gun violence going forward, Patrick focused extensively on the idea the schools’ many entrances may make them too unsafe.

“We may have to look at the design of our schools,” he said. “And retrofitting schools that are already built. What I mean by that is that there are too many entrances and too many exits to our over 8,000 campuses in Texas. … There aren’t enough people to put a guard at every entrance and exit.”

Mr. Patrick might want to discuss this idea with Fire marshals and those who write and enforce building codes: those “exits” are a means of egress for students if a fire occurs. But Mr. Patrick does not have the worst idea. That belongs to Fox news celebrity Sean Hannity:

If Sean Hannity truly has Trump’s ear, as a recent New York Magazine report indicates, it probably won’t be the last such proposal. This week, the Fox News host challenged the federal government to monitor every student’s social media activity, insisting the mounting number of school shootings is “not a gun issue.”

Not only are we placing our children in de facto prisons to protect gun rights, we are now proposing to snoop on their social media accounts to “protect” them. Instead of restricting access to guns we ARE raising our children to adjust to life under a totalitarian rule. Something is truly amiss in our thinking.

And here’s the saddest footnote to all of this:

As of Friday, 29 students have been slain in 16 such incidents in American schools this year. Just 13 U.S. service members have been killed on active duty over the same period.

 

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This Just In: Bill Gates Has an Outsized Influence on State Education Policy. Why? Read On:

May 20, 2018 Leave a comment

Diane Ravitch wrote a post yesterday that had a link to an AP article by Salli Ho that described Bill Gates’ outsized influence in the development of State policy. I offered the following explanation for this evolution in a comment i left…. and here it is:

Here’s the way I see the shift in policy-making: The influence of billionaires is linked to the decimation of State Departments of Education. While many in public school employees bemoaned the regulations that emanated from the “bureaucrats” at the state capitals, there was a time when State legislators deferred to their expertise and allowed them to develop the policies and regulations that dictated what transpired in classrooms. As state $$$ became scarce, the “bureaucrats” were the first to go and when they were gone there was a void in “expert” policy making… a void filled by Blue Ribbon panels of businessmen who complained that the workforce was untrained and unprepared (at the same time as THEY cut back on in house training that formerly trained entry level employees). Eventually the tech moguls and Friedman-ites who saw an opportunity to make $$$ in the “education marketplace” got a foothold and… behold… we now have Bill Gates setting policy and Betsy DeVos promoting vouchers.

Bottom line: if you want educator to set educational policy at any level, you need to provide the funds for high quality staff… which some might interpret as “diverting money away from the classroom”. But now that we’ve witnessed the benefits of having education policy written and implemented by educators, we might re-think that assertion.

DeVos Visits Private, Sectarian, and For-Profit Schools While Spewing Misinformation, Invective Toward “Government Schools”

May 20, 2018 Leave a comment

Several decades ago I took a time management course that indicated that the priorities of school leaders could be determined by looking at how and where they spent their time. In shorthand, actions speak louder than words. Looking at Betsy DeVos calendar during recent visits to several NE states it is abundantly clear that she favors sectarian and for-profit schools over “government schools” and favors the spreading of malicious misinformation about how those schools operate and who they serve.

An Alternet article by David Badas who is writing on the “new civil rights movement” for that magazine, reports on who Ms. DeVos did and did not visit during the two days visit to NYC:

Betsy DeVos has concluded her two-day visit to New York City, during which she refused to visit a single public school, although she did attend two private, Orthodox Jewish religious schools. The Education Secretary also delivered remarks at a Catholic organization’s breakfast meeting, and blasted bans on the use of taxpayer funds for private religious schools.

1.1 million students in New York City get their education in 1800 public schools – the largest school system in America. DeVos did not step foot in any of them.

Worse, from my perspective, her speeches were full of disinformation on the performance of public schools and the openness and willingness of sectarian and for-profit schools to open their doors to anyone who applies. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, was among those who heard a speech given by Ms. DeVos at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Alfred E. Smith Foundation.

“I know that those sycophants of ‘the system’ have kept legislators here from enacting a common-sense program that would open options to thousands of kids in need,” she said, referring to bans on the use of taxpayer funds for private, religious schools. “Catholic education aims to serve the whole community — especially ‘the least of these.’ It aims to promote individual student achievement while developing the whole person…body, mind and soul,” she said. “Those are goals we share.”

Unfortunately neither the press reporting on this nor Cardinal Dolan corrected Ms. DeVos by noting that Catholic schools routinely deny acceptance to underprivileged children who cannot afford to pay the tuition and also compel students with special needs and “behavior problems” to leave. The public schools, meanwhile, DO work with “the least of these” and do so without relying on Biblical teachings. And the press continually reports that states’ refusal to fund sectarian schools is based on the Constitution, which envisioned a bright line between church and state. As Mr. Badas notes, Ms. DeVos, like her GOP supporters and the “reformers” have expropriated the language of civil rights leaders during the 60s to advance their cause and muddy the argument for providing more money to schools overseen by publicly elected school boards.

One of the biggest challenges the media face today is documenting misinformation and disinformation spewed by Ms. DeVos, the POTUS, and all of the leaders in the GOP, none of whom have spoken up on behalf of public education or the constitutional requirement that public funds cannot be used to promote religion. If Ms. DeVos were the only cabinet member charging around the country spewing false information it might be possible to push back… but since the volume of misinformation is huge, it’s left to publications like Alternet and bloggers to make certain the record is being set straight.