Category - Education

Class and the Classroom

How Elite Universities Are Hurting America

Foreign Affairs, By George Scialabba, March / April 2015

One of the most fruitful ideas to emerge from twentieth-century social theory is Max Weber’s notion of the “iron cage” of purposive rationality. Weber argued that once some principle of organization—market competition, say, or ideological orthodoxy—has achieved dominance in the spheres of production and governance, the rest of a society’s institutions find themselves gradually but inexorably adopting the same principle. In an ideology-dominant society, everything fluid turns to stone; in a market-dominant society, everything solid melts into air.

Not everything, of course. The iron cage is, like most other useful theoretical notions, an ideal type. All societies retain protected (or neglected) spaces where not-yet-rationalized traditions and communities flourish. Still, although the mills of rationalization turn slowly, they grind exceedingly fine. In time, Weber believed, every practice or institution in a modern society, regardless of its original purpose, experiences an irresistible pressure to adapt to the society’s fundamental organizing principle.

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Scott Walker To Cut $300 Million From Universities, Spend $500 Million On A Pro Basketball Stadium

Think Progress, by Alice Ollstein, February 2

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) will unveil a budget Tuesday night that aims to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s public universities over the next two years. Students, professors and state lawmakers are already blasting the plan — the deepest cut in state history — and tell ThinkProgress they’re organizing to block its passage.

Ahead of his presentation of the budget to the state legislature, Governor Walker told local right-wing radio host Charlie Sykes that his budget cuts over the past few years have created positive “efficiencies” at the university, and offered: “Maybe it’s time for faculty and staff to start thinking about teaching more classes and doing more work.”

At the same time, Walker is calling for a nearly $500 million new basketball stadium in Milwaukee for the Bucks. Under his plan, the state would take out $200 million in bonds to pay for the arena, and the county and city of Milwaukee would have to chip in as well. The team’s owner has promised some private funding, and Walker claims the taxes the NBA players will pay will make up the difference.

Many university students and workers, including Eleni Schirmer with the Teaching Assistants Association, are outraged that the Governor would propose increasing sports funding while telling universities to shoulder cuts by developing “efficiencies.”

“It shows a fair amount of ignorance about what happens at a university,” she said. “He’s not telling the Bucks: ‘You should become an actually interesting team so people will watch your games.’”

Court rules Michigan has no responsibility to provide quality public education

The Michigan Citizen, November 13

Detroit, MI — In a blow to schoolchildren statewide, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 7 the State of Michigan has no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students in the struggling Highland Park School District.

A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”

The decision dismisses an unprecedented “right-to-read” lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Michigan in July 2012 on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, Mich. The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.

Chicago Teachers Union passes resolution opposing Common Core

Washington Post “The Answer Sheet” blog, By Valerie Strauss, May 9

The Chicago Teachers’ Union House of Delegates has passed a resolution opposing use of the Common Core State Standards in teaching and testing, and it plans to lobby the Illinois Board of Education to reverse approval of the Core and ask its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers, to consider it at its upcoming convention.

AFT President Randi Weingarten has been a longtime supporter of the standards, but she has called for revisions of the early childhood standards, calling them developmentally inappropriate, and has blasted the implementation of the initiative. She has also pushed for a delay in the use of new Core-aligned student standardized tests as part of the evaluation of teachers. The AFT, however, has over the last several years accepted millions of dollars in funding from the Gates Foundation to support the Core, though Weingarten recently announced that the AFT would no longer accept Gates money for its Innovation Fund in a bow to growing criticism of the standards initiative.

The lost generation: The kids brought up to feel as if they’re failing – from school to TV shows like The Apprentice and The X Factor

The Independent – On one side of the Atlantic, an academic survey reveals the pain of privilege for the children of moneyed families. Here, a former Prime Minister, who once promised to deliver a genuinely classless society, has described the continuing – indeed, growing – power of the affluent and privately educated in this country as “truly shocking”.

Oddly, the findings of researchers at Arizona State University and the speech this week by John Major lead to a similar conclusion. To become a happier society, and one less wasteful of its citizens’ talent, we need to become less divided by class. The sons and daughters of the relatively rich, to whom much is given and from whom much is expected, tend to buckle under the pressure. According to the American survey, published in Psychology Today, the children of families which earn the equivalent of £100,000 or more are twice as likely as their peers to suffer from anxiety, depression and mental illness leading to addiction and self-harm.

It is not just the usual pushy parents who are to blame, the report says. “Impossibly high expectations are transmitted by the entire community – teachers, schools, coaches and peers.” Those at the other end of the social scale, whose problem is precisely the opposite, are hardly likely to be models of contentment either. more

Today in Weapons Grade Stupid: Virginia Foxx, Brave Defender of the (White) Proletariat

Getting American kids into college without saddling them with massive debt shouldn’t be the government’s job, according to a prominent House Republican and possible 2014 Senate candidate. “It is not the role of the Congress to make college affordable and accessible,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said Wednesday morning during a committee markup of legislation that would halt federal officials from regulating for-profit educational institutions. Foxx likened federal standards for things like the definition of a credit-hour to totalitarianism. “The attitude of the Department of Education is that total control of our lives, especially education since that’s what we’re dealing with, should be done at the federal level,” Foxx said.

billy-createLeave it to a courageous ideological (if not intellectual) warrior like Virginia Foxx, who knows all too well the pitfalls of edumication, to break the dependence of the poors. Besides, you’d think that people would understand that if God had meant for you to get an edumication, you’d have been born wealthy, Conservative, and (most importantly) White.

I know, right? Whodathunkit??

In Foxx’s world, money, education, and opportunity flows to those whom God intended it to. Why would any patriotic Christian want to interject government into the natural order of things (which, to Foxx’s way of thinking, is “White Makes Right”)? If college is not “affordable” or “accessible,” perhaps you’d be better off looking within yourself to discover why and discern what’s wrong with you. The sooner you recognize that it’s your responsibility (and fault) the sooner you’ll be able to accept the world as God meant it to be- with wealthy White Folks making the rules and enjoying the benefits of their wealth.

As for the Department of Education, what are you going to do with a government agency that won’t let schools teach that Earth is 6,000 years old and created by Jesus as he rode a dinosaur through downtown Bakersfield?

(Read the full post at What Would Jack Do?)

What if Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin are lying?

What if there is a much larger scandal lurking within their private lives? What if the “whole lot of therapy” was merely a ruse, a going through the motions. What if it was an act  necessitated by the need “to get to a place where [Abedin] could forgive Anthony?”  Not for engaging in a relationship with another person intimate enough for the exchange sexts, but rather forgive him for being so stupid as to get caught.

A greater scandal than infidelity would be an open marriage.

Let that sink in.

Because the authoritarians out there are fine with infidelity. They do it themselves. What they will neither abide nor tolerate though, is a challenge to their moral superiority. The challenge of the sexual revolution of the sixties for the moral fundamentalists was not free love.  It was guilt-free love.  It’s ok to have sex. It’s just that after almost every instance you are required to feel guilty.

The sixties freed us of  “premarital” sex guilt.  So much so that the very word “premarital” is falling out of common usage.

But “open marriage” guilt. Not by a long shot.

And it’s beyond ironic that one of the kind of people most in need of standards of conduct within an open marriage are politicians. The essence of politics is lots of interaction with lots of people. Both shallow and deep interactions and interfaces. It was a revelation to my daughter when I pointed out to her the high likelihood that the Clintons had between them broad understandings of what they would permit of each other. And a greater revelation that agreements of that sort would be more scandalous than the acts themselves.

It is a sense wrongness that can constrain progressive politicians from living our values. Best if felt by the politician but sufficient if merely felt by the voters. Even if Anthony Weiner feels that sexting is ok, he has to lie.

Eliot Spitzer, of course, has a similar problem. Even if engaging professional sex services is allowed within his relationship and his personal ethics, it is beyond efficacy to say so.

And this is what drives the moral superiority of the authoritarians. They can still safely feel at one with their beliefs. As long as we feel, and I mean feel, that we must deny our fundamental beliefs, we will be at a disadvantage in the political arena.


Joe Bageant–bearer of the torch

bageantI was recently reminded of the passing of Joe Bageant. Joe was an unusual sort, best known for a book called Deer Hunting with Jesus. Joe was raised poor, a working class southerner. At some point in his life he developed leftist leanings, went off and received a good education and became a magnificent writer. However, Joe never fully forsook his roots; the people, the plants, the animals, the soil, the smells, the blood, and the spirit of the South remained alive in his heart and soul and sprang to life in his words, despite having left that world behind.  (Image)

Over the years Joe became disillusioned with the intellectual elite of the left as well as hard right Capitalist barons, both of which seemed exceedingly willing to allow his kin to work in poverty, trapped by ignorance: to fight the wars, feed the mouths, man the mills, and toil in mines for minmal compensation, only to be discarded when bodies failed. For the biggest part Joe’s kin were unwilling to take handouts, preferring to earn the meager life they had, a hard and proud people. He admired them for these traits, yet simmered in anger at those that took advantage of their ways.

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Free breakfasts: The latest Liberal plot to recruit and brainwash our precious snowflakes

hhhThere are those among us who view virtually any sort of charitable activity as borderline socialism, slowly but surely destroying the fabric of our country by creating a dependent class. That this heartless, inhuman world view is almost too absurd for words almost goes without saying. The cruelty inherent in such a cold, black view of the world is truly stunning. Enter Dennis Prager, a self-appointed expert on child hunger and all manner of other moral issues. Never being one to let facts get in the way of some truly satisfying self-righteous moral outrage, Prager is adept at cherry-picking facts and misinterpreting them to fit whatever his preconceived notion of the moment happens to be.

In this case, Prager has his panties in a wad over the Los Angeles Unified School District’s “Food for Thought” free breakfast program, which is being discontinued. The immorality of feeding children aside, Prager is all atwitter over not being able to understand the need for such a program.

(read the full post at What Would Jack Do?)


Love of country is one thing, but do we need to teach nationalism?

Like most of my generation, I grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. It was drilled into my pointy little skull, so much so that I can still recite it if pressed to do so (and no, you can’t ask).

Then I went to the former Yugoslavia during the war there and learned firsthand what unfettered and unchecked nationalism can produce. A country that had once peacefully co-existed (though admittedly under the iron hand of Josip Broz Tito), had disintegrated into a collection of independent republics…but not before engaging in one of the most brutal and inhuman wars of the latter half of the 20th century. Serbs killed Croats and Muslims. Croats killed Serbs and Muslims. Muslims, who most just wanted to be left alone, fired back at anyone who came to kill them. Within Serbia, the majority Albanian population of Kosovo was persecuted by the Serb minority (they were the ones with the guns)….

(Read the entire post at What Would Jack Do?)