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The Obama Agenda is the GOP Agenda

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Dear Deborah,

If you recall, I took some heat from readers when I said some while back that the Obama administration was adopting the same policies as the Bush administration and that Arne Duncan sounds amazingly like Margaret Spellings on issues like accountability and choice.

I just read a fascinating description of "Obama's Bipartisan Triumphs" by Matt Miller, who is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, one of those Beltway think tanks that sets the tone for federal policy. CAP is especially important because its director John Podesta ran the Obama transition.

Miller writes: "In Republicans' eyes, Obama sinned by not fighting to renew the Washington, D.C., voucher program that provided a lifeline to a few thousand desperate families. But the rest of his school agenda hits every Republican erogenous zone. The president is pushing charter schools, higher standards, differential teacher pay, alternative teacher certification, and even tenure reform in ways far beyond anything any president has attempted before. What's more, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan's savvy management of the administration's union ties, Obama has a chance to make more Nixon-to-China progress on ideas conservatives have long urged than has ever been possible."

Miller confirms what I earlier spotted: The Obama agenda is the Republican agenda with a smile and $100 billion in stimulus dollars to encourage districts and states to adopt conservative reforms. I recall back in the 1980s and 1990s, during the Reagan and Bush years, when Republicans wanted choice and accountability, and Democrats fought back with their own ideas. Now Democrats, with an overwhelming edge in Congress, have Republican ideas.

What happened?

Diane

50 Comments

Diane, it's not quite the Republican agenda; with all things Obama, it is leading us to high inflation and low growth in the coming years.

That said, we can go much further than Miller has in scope. The war in Iraq is being run exactly as Bush did. Rhetoric and labels aside, the unlawful combatant detainee and interrogation procedures will be nearly unchanged (save for bribing the Palau $200 million to take the Uygurs). The Wiretap Surveillance program will be unchanged; Afghanistan will be intensified in fighting and scope.

The President's speech in Saudi Arabia last week sounded remarkably Bush-like, speaking extensively of freedom, democratically elected government, freedom of speech and expression, fighting violent extremists, and the unity of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths.

"The Holy Koran tells us: “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”
The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”
The Holy Bible tells us: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Applause.)
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.
Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you."

-
There are, then, certain American ways of doing things. We are not Europe. We distrust big government solutions. We know what works in war, business, and charity. We believe in a large component of rugged individualism. At the same time, we are fanatical about teamwork, holding our youth football programs as indispensable when band or art may be left aside.

The President at his young age is not well educated in matters of war, commerce, security or economics. What he does know well is inner city needs.

The current testing/NCLB paradigm is a nasty but necessary stepping stone to 21st century education system, one that does not leave urban Americans behind.

Lets work to move past it, forward, as quickly as we can.

"What happened?"

Indeed. Short answer is that the previously "Republican" moneyed brain trusters coopted and rewrote the language of "reform"; doled it out in easy to swallow and regurgitate phrases about "raising achievement", "narrowing the gap", and "competing in the 21st century economy". Like unfortunate children in repetitive classroom test preparation, the Democrats stopped thinking, learning and listening.

The real shame is how many intelligent alternative voices and ideas are out there -- including, of course, yours Diane and yours Deborah -- but have such a hard time breaking through.

Just what I think the real prevailing public sentiment is on education could be heard in teacher Matt Stein's surprise question to President Obama at his recent town hall meeting in Wisconsin (Q&A transcript here):

http://www.wfrv.com/news/local/story/Transcript-of-Obamas-town-hall-meeting/TGsEddhEmk2UTEZLWyJ6kg.cspx

and in the Letters to the Editor three days ago in The New York Times in response to Harold O. Levy's recent OpEd:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/opinion/l14college.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Don't give up. Keep talking, writing and blogging.

Hi All.... hope this finds everyone well.

Diane... great post and where are the other ideas. They seem to be around but far from front and center.

I am glad that in another thread you mentioned getting Gerald Grants new book- Hope and despair in the American city ( Why there are no bad schools in Raleigh )

This is an example to me of some possible "other ideas" that i look forward to your take on.... would love Deb's take too :)

Ed... i have shared some of my vision of what is possible....

"The current testing/NCLB paradigm is a nasty but necessary stepping stone to 21st century education system, one that does not leave urban Americans behind." (ed)

Can you share your idea of what this 21st century system might look like?

As we move quickly forward... i think it may be a good idea to clarify ...
forward toward what?
forward how and
WHO GETS TO DECIDE?

be well... mike

On Sunday, Arne Duncan said in a speech to the NGA: "For too long, we've been lying to kids. We tell them they're doing fine, give them good grades, and tell them they're proficient on state tests that aren't challenging. Then they get to college and they're put into remedial classes."

Duncan added to those comments in an interview with the Associated Press. "Having real high standards is important, but behind that, I think in this country we have too many bad tests."

On Sunday, in the same NGA speech, he also said: "Some states actually have laws creating a firewall between teacher evaluation and student achievement. This isn't fair to kids or to teachers. Worse yet, it's not honest. How can you possibly talk about teacher quality without factoring in student achievement?"

How can the country have "too many bad tests" and "proficiency" based on those tests is a lie we tell children, but we should definitely link these test scores to teachers to evaluate teachers? Somehow, in Duncanland, NOT using the bad, lying tests to evaluate teachers is also not honest or fair. I would have thought using bad, lying tests to evaluate teachers - or for any purpose - would be a bad idea. Garbage in, sewage out.

Perhaps Duncan is the one who should not speak without a teleprompter. He even makes Biden sound positively lucid.

Logically, if there are "many bad tests" in this country and you make every state in the country use all of their test data, you will have made many states use bad test data. If you give states with "bad tests" money to put those bad data into databases, those will be bad databases. If you ask people to make decisions based on bad data in bad databases, those will be bad decisions. So, you will have knowingly and deliberately succeeded in making people make bad decisions.

Logic 101. They must not teach that at Harvard.

All I really want is a reporter who is not afraid to ask a question. When Duncan says, "in this country we have too many bad tests," will anyone have the guts to ask, "Which state or states do you mean?"

duncanland dissenter: Yes! You nailed Duncan in one of his vacuous moments of which there have been many. He first fried my brain when he said in NYC that you are lying to children unless you can look into the eyes of a second grader and tell him/her that they are on track to go to college. That was when I began to wonder about his verbal meanderings.
I am still waiting for evidence that he is not Spellings. No wonder she likes him so much.
Diane

Hi All... cool night here in south jersey!

"The president is pushing charter schools, higher standards, differential teacher pay, alternative teacher certification, and even tenure reform...( Diane )

FYI...NEW STANFORD REPORT FINDS SERIOUS
QUALITY CHALLENGE IN NATIONAL
CHARTER SCHOOL SECTOR June 15, 2009

Some highlights....

A new report issued today by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes
(CREDO) at Stanford University found that there is a wide variance in the quality of the nation’s
several thousand charter schools with, in the aggregate, students in charter schools not faring as
well as students in traditional public schools.

While the report recognized a robust national demand for more charter schools from parents and
local communities, it found that 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were
significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent of charter schools showed
gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, with 46 percent of charter
schools demonstrating no significant difference.


The report found that achievement results varied by states that reported individual data. States with reading and math gains that were significantly higher for charter school students than would have occurred in traditional schools included: Arkansas, Colorado (Denver), Illinois (Chicago),
Louisiana and Missouri.

States with reading and math gains that were either mixed or were not different than their peers in the traditional public school system included: California, the District of Columbia, Georgia and North Carolina.

States with reading and math gains that were significantly below their peers in the traditional
public school system included: Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas.

"If the supporters of charter schools fail to address the quality challenge, they run the risk of
having it addressed for them," said Dr. Raymond. "If the charter school movement is to flourish,
a deliberate and sustained effort to increase the proportion of high quality schools is essential.


As of 2009, more than 4700 charter schools enroll over 1.4 million children in 40 states and the
District of Columbia. The ranks of charters grow by hundreds each year.

In some ways, however, charter schools are just beginning to come into their own. Charter schools have become a rallying cry for education reformers across the country, with every
expectation that they will continue to figure prominently in national educational strategy in the
months and years to come.

And yet, this study reveals in unmistakable terms that, in the
aggregate, charter students are not faring as well as their TPS (traditional public school )counterparts.

Further,
tremendous variation in academic quality among charters is the norm, not the exception.

The problem of quality is the most pressing issue that charter schools and their supporters face.

The study findings reported here give the first wide‐angle view of the charter school landscape in
the United States.

for the full report:

http://credo.stanford.edu/

be well... mike

mike
The charter school movement is a movement for deregulation. Look what deregulation did for our economy. Think what it can do for education, with so many publicly funded schools in the hands of inexperienced well meaning people including businessmen, politicians, lawyers, hedge fund managers, philanthropists, and kindly dilettantes. Variation? You bet.

Diane

To call the charter school movement a matter of "deregulation" is accurate enough, but it implies we had a regulated, successful school system before that. (Ditto on the economy, huh?)

If we're gonna push forward -- instead of backwards -- it seems to me we need these "inexperienced well-meaning" people along with knowledgable educators, etc.

The rise of our public school system (as I draw it in "How Lincoln Learned to Read" anyway; and others may well disagree) includes a certain amount of exclusion of the "inexperienced" in favor of "professionals." The result -- from school boards to PTAs to unions -- was something less than democratic, eh?

While wanting to draw on folks' practical, hands-on experience, I'm not very interested in the "good old days." That baby can go with the bathwater.

You are making me confront two of my favorite, contradictory biases. I'm still more hopeful.

This blog has discussed the difference between data-driven accountablity and data-informed decision-making. Duncan's words have been crafted carefully, often straddling that line.

Seven years ago I knew that NCLB would cause some harm, while assuming it would do some good, and figuring it was a necessary compromise with a moderate Republican governor turned president. I figured that increased testing would cause some incremental harm and states would go through the motions but it would be one more thing to dance around.

But the data-driven guys really meant what they said! And there was something in the air, educators in key sectors were apparently ready to go with NCLB-type accountability.

Today, I believe presidential leadersship will be less reductionistic. And if educators get more primitive data-driven accountability foisted on us, and we again comply, then who is to blame?

As with NCLB, there will also be opportunity costs. When NCLB comes up for renewal, will money still be there for the more promising aspects of the Duncan/Obama program?

But in that case, its the economy. And its the economy and foreign policy, and health care, and presidential leadership that means I'm sticking with Obama regardless of education issues.

"Look what deregulation did for our economy."
Diane, Mike, this is the type of specious sound-bite which helps not education; and which underlies the wide anger at the education establishment.

It is nonetheless a good challenge and teachable moment if taken seriously. Perhaps we might do that? Honestly ask: What did deregulation do to the economy?

FEDEX is one result of deregulation-- specifically the 1978 airline deregulation act. As a result, I can decide at 9pm that I must have "Hope and Despair" or a Dell power supply, and either will be here in the sticks by noon tomorrow. (Though Amazon is somewhere in CA, I believe.) Should my needs involve medical supplies, its more than just productivity I might gain. Today FEDEX is the largest shipper in the world and drives much of what we have come to know as everyday buying experiences. In 1976, it was largely argued by academics, unionists, bureaucrats, and others that delivery of packages by anyone but the Postal Service would bring the country to a stop.

The postal service normally took a week to get a package across just a few states.

The same act led us into an age where ordinary people fly. Not just those on corporate expense, but teachers going to conference or tropical vacation, penurious researcher/activists going to speak or observe, family just wanting to catch up or relax. Normal ticket prices went from above $1000 to $100-300 or less in real dollars.


Cell phones, the Internet as we know it, free long distance and modern TV are all primarily a result of two deregulatory efforts: Jimmy Carter's Regulatory Flexibility Act and Judge Green's 1984 decision to break dismantle the regulated monopoly which was AT&T. MCI was at the edge of this effort to bring cheap and innovative communications to the public.

Drive across America and you will see now old-looking cement towers with strange giant horns atop. These were part of the earliest attempts to break the AT&T monopoly. Selling voice and data transmission services, and partnering with other companies such as IBM and Lockheed, MCI activities provided the first real challenge to AT&T's price/quality monopoly.

Some of you will recall that a phone came from one place- Bell Labs/AT&T. Not only did they have a monopoly on the services, you had to buy the equipment from AT&T as well. Actually "buy" is not the correct word. The phone here still has a sticker which says "Bell System Property - Not for Sale."

Imagine if your cell phone options included one company and one phone manufacturer. That is the world pre-deregulation.

Today, when I press the "Post" button here, my 3000 bytes will travel through the equipment of dozens of different companies. My ability to just type it up comes only via the products of 6 or more companies represented by branded equipment on my desktop, and scores more anonymous-to-me from the world-wide supply chain which builds the magic inside my Dell laptop.

Yet these examples represent merely the smallest tip of the propagated results of deregulation. The scientific and intellectual work enabled by the above communications & transport efficiencies!! The lives saved and made whole by medical accomplishment similarly empowered. Even the "green" movement, with its reliance on communications and other tech. Unmeasurable!

Diane,

This is another great post, and thank you for pointing out the similarity between GOP and Democratic talking points on education--and between Spellings and Duncan. There is so much to be concerned with here.

I want to tie something else to this issue, which is health care. I am not sanguine about Obama, and perhaps especially about his and Duncan's words on education. But if Obama is able to get through a serious health care reform bill, one that will (at the very least--since ideally it would be single-payer) provide affordable health insurance for most, if not all, of the uninsured, and lower the costs of health insurance for the insured while providing more coverage--that could be a victory that, in my mind, would overshadow many of the concerns I have about his and Duncan's views on education.

And this issue IS about education. Although test scores should not be the most important metric, yes, even test scores would rise with such legislation. But more importantly, children and families would be far less stressed, sick, and in danger of economic turmoil.

Obama's health care reform--which in my view must include a strong medicare-like public option--is a battle that will be extremely hard to win this year, despite the overwhelming number of reasons why it is a good idea, and the favorable conditions for Democrats. I happen to think this problem has a good deal to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions many Democratic and GOP Senators receive from the health care industry.

But Obama was elected with millions of people giving small contributions, which may explain why he can push hard for a strong public option--but, he cannot do it alone. My hope is that a large number of people will vocally support his plan (with a strong public option), call their senators, and push for real health care reform immediately. Nothing will change without that happening. The fight is on. There is no more important issue than this. If you care about education, if you care about the economy, if you care about skyrocketing health care costs. This is it. PLEASE call the Capital switchboard and ask for your senator's office and tell them you support a strong public option for health care reform: 1-800-965-4701.

Diane,

I've been reading your blogs and find your work very interesting. I work for an organization called Baltimore Curriculum Project and this fall we are hosting a forum about the unintended consequences of standardized testing. We have secured Daniel Koretz (Harvard) and Brian Jacob (Michigan) as speakers but we are looking for a third speaker. Is this something you would be interested in? The forum is on September 17th in Baltimore. If so, please contact me at [email protected] Thank you.

Liz Kaiser

"The president is pushing charter schools, higher standards, differential teacher pay, alternative teacher certification, and even tenure reform in ways far beyond anything any president has attempted before." Sounds like it's the kids first, excuses last agenda to me. And I don't really care if it's the GOP or Democrats pushing it through. Fortunately, Obama has smart, driven Democrats like Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and Joel Klein on his side, so maybe he can actually bring about all that change he's been talking about.

Diane,

You were wrong then. You are wrong now. Obama's policies are more like Clinton's than they are like those of the neocons'. Let's not forget, NCLB was a bipartisan effort. The Republicans just didn't want to put any money behind it. The Dems did and will, albeit changing the name from "No Child." Support for standards and charters didn't begin with Bush. Did you forget that? You don't see any differences between the two parties. I don't see many either. But their are some important ones that you are, for some reason, ignoring.

Could you imagine, Bush allying with Randi Weingarten? Increasing support for early childhood education? Bailing out school districts in crisis with billions in stimulus dollars? Criticizing "test-prep" education. Surely you are familiar with these differences and distinctions. The fact that you avoid mentioning them...? Well, please tell us.

Catherine,
I notice you live in Princeton. I wish you lived in NYC, so you could enroll your kids in our public schools and get a taste of what you admire.

Diane

Clyde,
I worked in the first Bush administration. I also was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board by President Clinton.
I know what I am talking about.
Standards-based reform was launched when I worked for the Bush administration: standards in the arts, civics, geography, history, sciences, economics, and even physical education. What we have now is not "standards," but test-based accountability in basic skills, tested with low-level tests.
I will say it again: Obama and Duncan have embraced the punitive approach of NCLB, which was based on what we now know was the flawed Texas miracle.
Diane

Hi All.... interesting dialog.

It is interesting times, to be able to get a peek at the thinking of a diverse group of people and to communicate with Diane and Deb.... who i have only known through their writings.

Still unclear Ed what your actual idea is.... some highligts of your posts leave me very unclear:

The war in Iraq is being run exactly as Bush did. Rhetoric and labels aside, the unlawful combatant detainee and interrogation procedures will be nearly unchanged (save for bribing the Palau $200 million to take the Uygurs).

The Holy Koran tells us

The Talmud tells us:

The Holy Bible tells us:

The current testing/NCLB paradigm is a nasty but necessary stepping stone to 21st century education system, one that does not leave urban Americans behind.

FEDEX is one result of deregulation

Cell phones, the Internet as we know it, free long distance and modern TV are all primarily a result of two deregulatory efforts:
Yet these examples represent merely the smallest tip of the propagated results of deregulation. The scientific and intellectual work enabled by the above communications & transport efficiencies!!

Diane, Mike, this is the type of specious sound-bite which helps not education; and which underlies the wide anger at the education establishment.

Ed... "sound-bite".... i am really not following you...

What would your vision be of a school system Ed?

be well..mike


I actually live in DC, where I have worked in public, private, and charter schools, so I am, in fact, getting a taste of what I admire. And that taste of the beginning of reform is just making me hungry for more! Though I will say that I do enjoy your blog and the feisty debates that always follow the posts. We all are looking for solutions to our nation's education problems, and it will take many approaches and a bipartisan effort to succeed. Thanks for the quick response :)

Catharine,
Thanks for your nice comment.
May I recommend to you a book that came out just this past week, created and edited by parent activists in NYC on a shoestring budget. It is titled "NYC Schools Under Bloomberg and Klein: What Parents, Teachers, and Policymakers Need to Know." It is available online from lulu.com, meaning that it was essentially self-published. It will give you a very different perspective from what you normally read or see in the mainstream media.
Diane

Diane,

I had heard that it came out and will check it out per your recommendation. Out of curiosity, what did you think about Sweating the Small-Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism? Other than the grating label applied to these schools, I found the book an inspiring example of how public schools could work. The "top 20 list of successful reform practices" was especially exciting to me, because I think it can be replicated. I know a lot of people think these schools use a drill-kill approach that doesn't encourage higher-level thinking, but the creative, energetic teachers that I have observed at these schools use anything but a "drill-kill" approach. I think if we can expand the energy and ideas behind organizations like TFA, TNTP, KIPP, Green Dot, YES Prep, Achievement First, and HCZ, we can improve education for all and not just the lucky students selected by lottery for these charter schools. I support Barack Obama's proposals because I think he's trying to do just that. I really believe that all children can achieve at a high level, regardless of background, and we need an education system that believes that too -- in ADDITION to a supportive state health care and human services system, not contingent on it. But maybe I am too idealistic...

Catharine

Matthew:

I wonder if anyone has done any research to substantiate whether the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has had any impact on education outcomes. To be sure it would have to be primarily correlational, but it would seem as though this broad expansion of children's health coverage ought to have brought about some change--that is, if lack of health care is indeed a primary barrier to children learning.

Margo:

Here's a link to at least one such study:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1332610

Matt Knoester,

Food, shelter, education, health care....so many basic needs to think about. The US Government is already in for $4 Trillion this year and government already controls 50% of the healthcare industry. And u want to give the beast more power?

"Defense" of the USA is already socialized and has come to dwarf all other military industrial complexes in the world. As a major avenue for corporations to avoid the market and extract money from the hapless citizenry; a way for politicians to enrich themselves and donors (Dick Cheney, General Electric, Halliburton...); a way for narrow or tyrannical majoritarian interests to capture and create foreign policy -foreign policies that have inevitably yielded mass destruction and murderous slaughter of foreign peoples (and murder of our own people when the draft is in play); the question emerges: why would you want the government involved in health care at all?

It seems that in a time when the government, the Fed Reserve System, Goldman Sachs et al., the UAW and all kinds of politically connected types have ruined the economy at a great expense to the everyday person, that a wise estimation would lead one to want government out of activities most important to human well-being.


Catharine: Please be advised that drastic demographic engineering is responsible for a large portion of the achievement at least one of the schools featured in Whitman's book, the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, CA. This important factor goes chronically unreported because its revelation would dispel charter school myths that authors like Whitman, and columnists like George Will and David Brooks, wish to believe and perpetuate. When I brought the evidence to the attention of Mitchell Landsberg, the author of a lengthy LA Times article about the school, he replied that he didn’t address the change in demographics because he, “… didn’t have more space…” and didn’t think it was important enough.

I think most would agree the following details would be an extremely important piece of the puzzle to reveal.

In a time span of just eight years, the percentage of this school’s students in the traditionally low achieving subgroups has been maneuvered from 100% to 42.3% through a process of cherry-picking, dumping, self-selection, and deceptive practices. Recent African American students have included the children of a school principal featured in Landsberg's piece, not exactly the type of disadvantaged AA student one would imagine by just looking at flat data. The majority of students (54.4% last year, and climbing) are nearly entirely Asian. Here in Oakland, the average achievement of low-income Asian students is quite high (close to that of middle-class White students), even when they attend the "worst" schools. This cultural phenomenon should be formally researched; we would all have something to learn.

So as far as one of Whitman’s “new paternalism” schools goes, the bottom line is that no dramatic change was wrought with the original types of low-achieving students. This makes me wonder what could be discovered about the others. More details about this story are @ http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2009/05/dear-mr-finn.html.

I apologize for straying so far off topic, but I needed to respond to the comment.

Mike, you might as well have asked in '85 what the World Wide Web would look like! :-)

My vision of a 2020 school system would be both highly flawed and irrelevant. 'Twould resemble too much of my past experiences and too little of the innovation and advancement possible when lots of good people are freed up to do the job.

I was hoping the above examples would illustrate this for you. Those people so opposed to letting companies--not the post office--ship packages to people's homes? They sounded so much like the state education associations of today. The postal system would collapse if USPS did not get the generous revenue which accompanied packages.

Yet what has happened? Not only does the post office continue to deliver mail and packages to our homes, it has broadened its core reach and services. Meanwhile, all the nation and the world has been immeasurably empowered by the additional services delivered by FEDEX, UPS, courier services, and more.

Would you willingly go back to the regulated world that fed all delivery through the post office?


Fred Smith, founder of Fedex, says something about shortcomings. Every organization fails to be perfect, but how do you deal with the misses? He says,
"We decided a long time ago that percentages were not acceptable to our customers. In other words, 99 percent sounds great, unless you're the one percent who we don't deliver for. So we never talk about percentages. We built a management system which measures problems on an absolute basis. And the secret is, as traffic or volume increases, the number of complaints have to go down on an absolute basis.

Students in Philadelphia, New York, DC, Detroit deserve that type of commitment.

Daniel,

I'll give you credit for identifying that too much of the federal government's revenue is being used for (murderous) wars abroad, and war profiteering. The privatization of war policies--such as the contracts given to vendors like Halliburton and Blackwater, which enrich private investors at taxpayer's expense, and erode accountability for actions, including war crimes, etc., is astonishing and outrageous. Even if the privatization of the military wasn't going on, the amount of money spent on war, and the abuse of military power abroad, is out of control. I agree with you on that.

But I don't then conclude that "all government is bad," as you seem to do. That's far too simplistic.

I don't know how you can write that the federal reserve, or any branch of the government, "ruined the economy," unless you qualify that by saying "by breach of their regulatory duties."

The federal government provides regulation and services that make any kind of economic growth possible. Capitalism wouldn't last a week without regulation.

But the money being spent should serve the people, not just the big investors. The engine of the economy is wages, and unfortunately, family incomes are being crippled by health care costs, and many are too often ruined by health care crises if they don't have insurance, or even if they do have insurance but their for-profit insurance companies deny coverage. Further, the costs of health care are skyrocketing. Health insurance is a central part of the faltering economy, not to mention the needless inattention to illnesses that people are receiving.

One of the reasons for the bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler, as is well known, is health care costs (and don't say it's the UAW, please). All foreign car manufacturers that compete with US car companies benefit from the advantage of government-provided health care coverage.

A strong public option for health care is an essential step in the right direction. BUT--Daniel, if you are happy with your health insurance provider you do not have to switch to the public option (if it passes)! What are you afraid of?

It's ironic to me that you don't support war profiteering but you don't seem to mind that people today do not have the option of getting non-profit, government health insurance--because people today have no other choice but to enrich the for-profit health care industry. Do you really think that CEO's of health insurance companies should be getting the million dollar+ salaries they are getting? Guess where that money comes from? From denying coverage to their clients, and insisting on huge margins.

Please don't stand in the way of the 65% of Americans who support a public option--those who want cheaper and more comprehensive health care coverage.

And don't then tell me we can't afford it. We can afford it. If we don't do this, the estimate is that in less than ten years we will be spending 20% of GDP on health insurance. Our country already spends more on health insurance than any other country, but ranks 37th out of the top 40 countries on health statistics.

I hope people will call their senators today and let them know they support a strong public option for health care reform. I also like to let senators know that I realize they receive campaign contributions from the health care industry. I don't think there's anything wrong with exposing the conflict of interest there. I hope that exposure makes them a little nervous. It kind of looks like bribery, doesn't it?

The essays in "NYC Schools Under Bloomberg and Klein" are scathing. But the same portrait, with variation, is applicable nationally. The account makes it evident that the pillars of "The Race to the Top" have no foundation.

There is no race and there is no top to arrive at. What we have is another empty metaphor piled on the empty metaphor, "No Child Left Behind." The metaphors mask the failure of the "Standards and Standardized Tests" view that has guided national education policy since the late 1980's.

One really doesn't need a test to determine if a child can read or do math computations. The problem arises when the child cannot. And that's a matter of instruction, which goes overlooked.

The "Balanced Literacy" instruction in NYC is again prototypical nationally. Every state and local district contends that its tests are "aligned" with its standards. Yet the test results have been useless in providing instructional guidance.

What happened to "Change We Can Believe In"?

Let's hope that someone at the "top" reads the free lulu PDF. Thanks D&D for your contributions to the piece and to the cause of public education.

Catharine,
I don't know how many of the groups you cite are scalable and sustainable.
KIPP currently runs 66 schools nationally. Maybe one day they will take over an entire district--say, Detroit--and we will see what they can do there. A Bay Area study last year said that their schools got high schools, but 50-60% of the students did not persist from 5th to 8th grades.
TFA produces some wonderful young teachers, but they stay for only 2 years, and at the rate of 6,000 or so a year, it is hard to see how they will change the teaching profession of 4 million.
HCA fired its first class when they didn't get high scores. It has millions in philanthropic support, which enables it to provide small classes and facilities that the local public schools long for.
I assume you saw the reports yesteray of Stanford University"s Margaret Raymond's major study of charter schools, which found that there were twice as many low-performing ones as high-performing ones.
Diane

Catharine,

I made a spelling error, more like a typing error. I meant to write "high scores," not "high schools" in this sentence:

"A Bay Area study last year said that their schools got high scores, but 50-60% of the students did not persist from 5th to 8th grades."

Diane

Diane,

Scalability concerns me too, and you're right in that all the programs I listed have a lot of flaws. I guess I'm of the belief that we can ask what those programs are doing really well, and how we can learn from that, and also ask what those programs are struggling with, and see how we can learn from that too.

I did see the report, and of course found it disappointing. Not because I think charters should take over from regular public schools, but because I was sad to think of all the students who we, the adults, have failed. That's why I would conduct a study looking at the habits of highly effective schools AND the practices of ineffective, struggling schools, and I would try to disseminate that information to as many schools and school districts as possible. I think public schools can learn a lot from charters' successes and failures. I also think we should be moving quickly but carefully to shut down under-performing charter schools and restructure under-performing public schools. Like Arne Duncan, I believe in restructuring first before just shutting the schools down.

All I want to see is a consistent, efficient school system committed to researching what works and constantly seeking to improve. Right now, I'm seeing bloated bureaucracies more interested in protecting teachers and administrators regardless of their competence or commitment to excellence. I actually think we would both support a lot of the same things, like more effective and flexible professional development and certification programs, support and mentoring for new teachers, frequent sharing and discussion of best practices within schools, and consistent and effective appraisal of what works. We might disagree on how to achieve those things, but overall, the idea is the same...

One more item for Catharine:
And as for the KIPP school in my city, a few months ago I compared the Parent Educational Levels (PEL) at Oakland middle schools, charter vs. traditional. The Ca. Dept. of Ed. defines this figure as an average of the student responses where 1 = did not graduate from high school, 2 = high school graduate, 3 = some college, 4 = college graduate, 5 = graduate school. The average PEL at the charter middle schools was 2.42. The average for the traditional middle schools was 2.08.

The PEL for the Oakland KIPP was 3.27, the third highest of the charter schools (the highest charter PEL was 3.63). This school has an API (state accountability index) of 760; 800+ is the goal.

In comparison, the PEL’s for the two traditional middle schools in the same neighborhood were 2.20 and 2.15.

This difference in parent education levels clearly demonstrates self-selection. Once again, even though most of the KIPP students are recorded as low-income African Americans, they are a group with quite educated parents. So the KIPP school here has not produced outstanding achievements with a set of the most disadvantaged children.

When Oakland’s middle schools (charter and traditional) are combined (36 schools total), the KIPP parent body is the fifth most educated, rivaling our highest achieving middle school with a PEL of 3.37 and a state accountability index of 794.

I would like to see investigations of this type conducted for every supposedly innovative, high-performing charter school.

Pondoora,

I won't claim to know everything about the KIPP network, and I think the Oakland data you've found is really interesting and valuable to the folks at KIPP. I know right now the KIPP DC folks are trying to reach kids from all types of backgrounds. In fact, there's an aggressive neighborhood recruiting plan that sends recruiters into the least typically served, most blighted areas to see if they can convince parents that KIPP will give their kids a chance.

I think there definitely are some KIPP schools that are self-selecting, and others that aren't. Again, I'm all about what we can learn from this. What can KIPP do to reach the lowest performing students and give them a chance? What can regular public schools learn from KIPP? At KIPP DC, many kids jump 3 or 4 grade levels after one year. For example, at KEY Academy, 5th graders went from the 35th percentile to the 89th percentile on the Stanford 10, a nationally norm-referenced test, in one year. Even IF it was a self-selecting group of students, that's not something you would have seen in a year in the neighborhood public schools. That's good teaching, and I think we can learn from it. Why shoot down the good ideas, even if they're coming from charter schools?

Pondoora--I don't wish to get into the charter vs traditional public debate. And I believe your data. But, I am disturbed by the ongoing belief that we all subscribe to that background is destiny. I am not about to attempt to deny (some) charter schools cherry pick, as I have experienced this as well in traditional public schools. Nor am I blind to the self-selection bias.

But, a public school, whether charter or traditional, is charged with educating its students, no matter who they are. And if their methods are reinforcing any pre-existing knowledge gaps, rather than alleviating them, then they need to be about change. Education carries a whole lot of baggage in this country. Education has, at times, or continuously, been used as a tool to maintain separation of social classes and to deny, rather than support, access to all that education has to offer to certain groups of people. We have, without shame, at various times, declared education to be a wasted resource for women, for slaves, for blacks, for immigrants, for those with disabilities, in short for any but the blond blue-eyed sons of the elite. This is a heritage that we need to accept--not because it is good, but because it is ours.

This means that we need to guard ourselves against the assumption that the schools serving those who share the most characteristics with the most favored group excel primarily because of those characteristics rather than anything that they might be doing.

Personally I am tired of the charter vs public debate, because I am so thoroughly convinced that it makes little to no difference. I recall a time that educators were fond of blaming too much regulation for their shortcomings. In response, we have less regulated, or less bureaucratized charters. If anything, it appears that those states who regulate charters effectively have had better success. But, at best, there is little difference between charters as a group and traditional publics as a group. Learning--it ain't the regulation.

But, I am also tired of looking so deeply into income, education of parents, and race to account for the success, non-success of schools. The reality is--schools cannot change those things. School systems may be able to change the particular composition of schools, as mike is suggesting, for some impact. But, in the main, I find the comparison of parent education levels to be a blind alley. What to do with the information? Launch efforts to better educate more parents? How about starting with the kids now in school--can we better educate them than their parents, before they become parents? Should we shuffle them around so that everybody gets some of each? Or should we become more diligent in our efforts to reach each and every child out of a belief that in the end, they can all learn?

Diane,

The attrition rate at Bay Area KIPP schools is something a lot of people at KIPP are worried about, and I think KIPP is looking for solutions. I think it's hard to make an argument based on one example, so I won't make the counter-argument that some of the New York and DC KIPP schools have extremely low attrition rates. Instead, I'll say this: the attrition rate concerns me too, and I'd like to see KIPP do something about it. I've also noticed that while their students have extraordinary growth, usually, in math, they don't have as many gains in reading, typically plateau-ing around the 60th percentile (although there are a few stand-out schools who are able to raise their students scores to the 80th and 90th percentiles). Fortunately, at KIPP School Summit every year, teachers and administrators look for solutions to these problems, drawing on outside and inside help to answer them. Another problem--KIPP teachers compared 9th grade writing samples from Andover to 8th grade writing samples at KIPP. How can we get our students' writing up to this level, teachers asked. They eventually formed the World Class Writing Project (I may have the name slightly wrong), which aims to improve writing instruction at KIPP so that students have not only the mechanics of writing down, but also the analytical skills necessary to succeed at the highest quality high schools and colleges.

This is what I like about KIPP. Teachers don't point fingers, they look for solutions, and ask, how can we do it better? I think the important thing to do is keep an open mind, and look at every success and every failure as a learning experience.

Just a quick addition to what Margo/Mom was saying... The states that have tougher regulations on attaining charters have been doing better, but the states with charter caps have been doing worse. There are some good possible explanations for this in the Stanford report.

Hi All.... enjoying the conversation.

Margo Mom....

"This means that we need to guard ourselves against the assumption that the schools serving those who share the most characteristics with the most favored group excel primarily because of those characteristics rather than anything that they might be doing." MARGO

Who attends high poverty schools?

Income in our society is closely tied to race. Nationally, about 50 percent of all black and Latino students attend schools in which 75 percent or more of the students are low-income as measured by eligibility for free and reduced price lunch (FRPL).

Only 5 percent of white students do.

In fact, over half of all white students attend schools in which 25 percent or fewer of the students are eligible for FRPL.

To what extent does a school’s overall poverty rate affect student achievement?

Student achievement—on which the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools appropriately place a great deal of emphasis—has been clearly shown to fall as the poverty level of a school rises.

A consistent, forty-year body of scientific studies confirms that children who attend high-poverty schools face considerably higher risks of lower academic performance, whatever their individual academic potential.

In fact, middle-income students who attend high-poverty schools earn lower average test scores than do low-income students who attend middle class schools.2

Since the publication of the Coleman Report in 1966, social scientists have reported that the socioeconomic composition of a school makes a difference in the achievement levels of individual students.

Although there are many things that can be done and in many places probably are being done to create improvements.... it seems to me that until we are willing to look at this kind of research...which is deep and has been around for a very long time now... we are missing something that seems hidden in plain sight.
In 1982, Professor Karl White evaluated 101 previous studies and concluded that overall, the socioeconomic composition of schools seems more predictive of future academic achievement than does a student's individual socioeconomic status.

Can compensatory measures overcome the effects of concentrated poverty?
Unfortunately, in most cases, compensatory measures do not appear readily able to counter these strong trends in high-poverty schools. The means adopted in Charlotte's Equity Plus II schools plainly have not yet succeeded, despite well-intended plans to provide safeguards to assist students in Charlotte’s high-poverty schools. Indeed, many of the finest experts agree that although educators know a great deal about how to reach individual students from disadvantaged backgrounds, far too little is currently known about what is needed to make high-poverty schools, full of disadvantaged students, really effective.

be well... mike


Have been away for a few days and looks like I've missed a great deal. Catharine (and others) have made some excellent contributions to the conversation.

So where do we go from here?

Diane, I believe you're correct when you say Obama's agenda is the same as the GOP's. That sounds a bit like saying it's a bi-partisan agenda to the exclusion of the educational establishment.

I'll chime in again with my old adage that the educational establishment got to drive for a long time and we never seemed to get any closer to where we were supposed to be going. Perhaps it's time for someone else to take the wheel. I realize to some this sounds a bit risky, especially when we're talking about kids' lives, but can a different driver really do worse than the previous one(s)? Have ridden with the previous driver(s), I'd take my chance with a new bi-partisan outlier/driver, at least for awhile.

Paul

Paul,
If you liked the Bush administration program for education "reform," you will love the Obama agenda. It is the same. If you like the idea that the federal government is the right place to tell teachers, districts, and states what to do, you are gonna love what is in store for you.

Diane

mike:

What you say is true and well documented. Another way to frame the information is to say that we don't do a very good job of education low-income kids, particularly in low-income settings. What Pandoora was saying, and many others say as well, is that when schools improve their outcomes, we can trace this primarily to the demographic composition of the school. I question the validity of this statement--in all its many iterations (particularly that tired story that compares students to blueberries).

Data also substatiate that the resources of education tend to be disproportionately distributed. Sometimes we can track a dollar disparity (for instance the per pupil Title I allocation in the highest vs the lowest quartile of schools by poverty). Other times it is more important to compare the things that the dollars are buying. These can be rather crudely compared in a number of ways: number of books in the library, ratio of computers to students, age of computers, age and square footage of buildings, and especially important the experience and credentialling of teachers. These things are all unevenly distributed among states, among districts, and in many urbans among schools. Guess who is at the low end.

I am not opposed to reshuffling kids to better link the destiny of the poor to that of the rich. I am a big advocate of inclusion of kids with disabilities with non-disabled kids for many of the same reasons. I think that someone just presented some Congressional White papers on the topic. But--unless we can combat this thinking that some kids are just going to do less well in school--I am not sure that we will get the same bang for our buck in legislating this change as we can observe in areas where it many currently be occurring.

I think that Catherine is right. One take-away from the KIPP experience is that we can get more mileage from an attitude that engages in finding solutions to problems that one that merely admires the problems. It's not merely a case of layering on "compensatory services." Some of the reality is that while some kids may arrive "behind," they get further and further behind the more years that they are in school. Something is not connecting. We need to be about teaching the kids that we have--not the ones that we wish we had.

Hi Margo/Mom... hope this finds you well on a rainy day here in southern new jersey!

I agree, that mixing the demographics of school districts is not the end all solution to our problem.... just want to get it into the mix as a possible idea to really consider.

Even if we were able to do this... i agreee that many other things also would need to occur.

"But--unless we can combat this thinking that some kids are just going to do less well in school--I am not sure that we will get the same bang for our buck in legislating this change as we can observe in areas where it many currently be occurring." Margo

The thinking that you mention we need to combat .... is right on the money... and this kind of thinking can be found in all our schools.... rich as well as poor.

So... absolutely agree and am attempting to do both... one is long term systems change.... the other happens today..right now...in the daily work we do our schools.

thanks margo.... enjoy reading your thoughts..

mike

Hi all...

Ed....All things are created twice.

Over time you have asked me a number of times to clarify my positions or visions and i have attempted to do so.

When i asked you to do the same... here is your responce:

My vision of a 2020 school system would be both highly flawed and irrelevant. 'Twould resemble too much of my past experiences and too little of the innovation and advancement possible when lots of good people are freed up to do the job.

Ed... in my very humble opinion... to critique others... and then put this out for your vision... does not cut it.

be well... mike

Margo, I'm just having a conversation with an Ohio k-3 literacy professor. One of the things she is saying is that it is hard to get teachers to actually read with kids. The old-skool way is to do many worksheets with these young ones, but not so much to do actual reading reading.

Much of what she relates comes from student-teachers returning from assignment.

Books in the classroom are a problem. The "experienced" teachers with whom the pre-service students work often do not recognize the need for putting interesting books among young children.

The topic turns to cities, and my coffee partner says it is amazing the difference between experiences in Akron (a small city of 200k) and Ravenna, a smaller town of 12k. The median income seems not that different, but of course the racial composition is quite different. More to the point, Akron is not Philly or NYC in behemothness.

The reports from the pre-service students coming back from Akron resound with appall at the intense use of worksheets with these young kids; and with disappointment at the lack of individual attention and of course interesting books in the classroom. The young teachers want not to go work with the staff in Akron.

The apprentice teachers feel the experienced Akron teachers do not respect the children.

Why such a big difference in culture among teachers?

The cheap way out is to blame it on discipline issues. This may be a component, but I don't buy it as the differentiating factor.

I'm seeing below average student/teacher ratios. Can't immediately check funding.

From here, there is also another difference. Akron students are taught by members of the Akron EA, big enough to afford a pricey web site.

Is a city like Akron that different from the towns around as to justify a demeaning teaching climate?

What do you think?

The Obama agenda is the Republican agenda with a smile and $100 billion in stimulus dollars to encourage districts and states to adopt conservative reforms. I recall back in the 1980s and 1990s, during the Reagan and Bush years, when Republicans wanted choice and accountability, and Democrats fought back with their own ideas. Now Democrats, with an overwhelming edge in Congress, have Republican ideas.

What happened?

1. What happened? Good arguments, such as the ones you used to make not long ago, convinced many Democrats that a tightly-controlled monopoly with no accountability wasn't actually the best idea for running anything.

2. Don't be fooled by the $100 billion figure. About 95% of that money is flowing to traditional status quo programs (such as Title I, or building improvement programs) that have absolutely nothing to do with charters, merit pay, accountability, etc. It's disingenuous to imply otherwise.

Hi Matt,
Here are my replies to your thoughtful pleas, section by section. Your statements are in quotation marks. Cheers!
Dan

“Daniel,

I'll give you credit for identifying that too much of the federal government's revenue is being used for (murderous) wars abroad, and war profiteering. The privatization of war policies--such as the contracts given to vendors like Halliburton and Blackwater, which enrich private investors at taxpayer's expense, and erode accountability for actions, including war crimes, etc., is astonishing and outrageous. Even if the privatization of the military wasn't going on, the amount of money spent on war, and the abuse of military power abroad, is out of control. I agree with you on that.”

I am glad we agree on something! We can always drink to that instead of going to pistols.

“But I don't then conclude that "all government is bad," as you seem to do. That's far too simplistic.”

I have a couple of questions, then. 1) Tell me why any entity, government or otherwise, should be allowed to force an individual to give it labor, money, military service or anything else? 2) Why is the government exempt from its own laws against murder (the war thing you even agreed with me on), slavery (conscription etc) and theft (taxation, inflation, eminent domain)?

“I don't know how you can write that the federal reserve, or any branch of the government, "ruined the economy," unless you qualify that by saying "by breach of their regulatory duties."

I will post separately on the Fed Reserve.


“The federal government provides regulation and services that make any kind of economic growth possible. Capitalism wouldn't last a week without regulation.”

Very often it is the large corporations screaming the loudest for regulations because 1) they know they can capture the regulatory agency and 2) use regulations as anti-competitive measures, i.e. to price the little guy out of the market. Gabriel Kolko and Butler Shaffer have written extensively about this.
Capitalism lives in spite of the government. It has within itself self-regulating functions, if by what you mean by “capitalism” is the market unhampered by government intervention. If a producer or seller does not serve the needs of a customer they go out of business. It is only when the government steps in that criminal syndicates like Halliburton, Blackwater and drug cartels happen. Every decision making authority that the government grabs is one less liberty for the people. The government in the economic sphere is unaccountable in the way that a protection racket is unaccountable.

“But the money being spent should serve the people, not just the big investors. The engine of the economy is wages, and unfortunately, family incomes are being crippled by health care costs, and many are too often ruined by health care crises if they don't have insurance, or even if they do have insurance but their for-profit insurance companies deny coverage. Further, the costs of health care are skyrocketing. Health insurance is a central part of the faltering economy, not to mention the needless inattention to illnesses that people are receiving.”

Wages cannot be increased artificially without negative consequences- usually unemployment. More capital investment and better technology per head serving the wants of customers is the real economic engine. The government cannot create capital- it only taxes, borrows and inflates itself other people’s property. Government is legal plunder.

“One of the reasons for the bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler, as is well known, is health care costs (and don't say it's the UAW, please). All foreign car manufacturers that compete with US car companies benefit from the advantage of government-provided health care coverage.”

The UAW is not to blame only, true. But like any guild, union or cartel, the UAW interferes with the market, drives up the costs of production and de-incentivizes producing what the customer wants. Ed Jones noted the FedEx vs. USPS example. The UAW also violates basic human rights by forcing people to pay it in exchange for work. Sylvester Petro wrote an excellent book on this subject. Union history is full of sordid detail.

At any rate, government provided health-care, as an inefficient non-market program, will show its costs in some form or another. Someone is paying for it and they are hurting. It is not just the costs that are more expensive when government runs things, but the fact that government does not have the means to allocate as reasonably as market players, and indeed, has less incentive to do so. Health care run politically means that health care will be obtained politically. Since politics is about forced seizure of other peoples’ assets, among other things, what kind of system is Obama really talking about?

“A strong public option for health care is an essential step in the right direction. BUT--Daniel, if you are happy with your health insurance provider you do not have to switch to the public option (if it passes)! What are you afraid of?”

I already live with the awareness that Obamacare will exploit further the class system that the government has set-up in health care already. Many of the bells and whistles that a corporate plan, stemming from a corporate job, offers is a result of wage freezing in WWII. In other words, there was a loophole in benefits that allowed corps. to compete for labor.
Insurance cards and subsidized care, these blank checks, whether private or government, combined with cartelization of doctors (the AMA), unionization of workers (nurses etc), hyper-regulations, and many other non-competitive legislations, legal precedence, and the regulatory capture by large firms- has made health care crazy expensive. It is fine if you are these special interests, but the farther away from the political spigot you become, the less access to good and affordable care there is. I should know. As a warehouse worker I receive no benefits at all. But some desk assistant at the local Department of Motor Vehicles gets full benefits for life. What is worse, they got the job via nepotism. And I am the one performing service that other people want voluntarily; I do not criminally force people to pay me like a government bureaucrat. Where is the justice? It is this system, the government system that you are touting, that is keeping me down and is in the way of progress.

“It's ironic to me that you don't support war profiteering but you don't seem to mind that people today do not have the option of getting non-profit, government health insurance--because people today have no other choice but to enrich the for-profit health care industry. Do you really think that CEO's of health insurance companies should be getting the million dollar+ salaries they are getting? Guess where that money comes from? From denying coverage to their clients, and insisting on huge margins.”

Profits serve a vital function in a free society. It denotes what activities the consumers want the most and which producers are doing the right thing. It is the government’s wars we could do without. No imperial conquest, no war profiteering.
If corporations could not use the government to create anti-competitive environments for themselves (like government itself mind you), then they would have to compete. Consumers, shareholders and workers could vote with their wallets and feet. The disproportionate and strange incentives in CEO compensation would dissipate.

“Please don't stand in the way of the 65% of Americans who support a public option--those who want cheaper and more comprehensive health care coverage.”

Even if it were a consensus it still would not make it right or advisable.

“And don't then tell me we can't afford it. We can afford it. If we don't do this, the estimate is that in less than ten years we will be spending 20% of GDP on health insurance. Our country already spends more on health insurance than any other country, but ranks 37th out of the top 40 countries on health statistics.”

I won’t get into a discussion of the fallacies in economic aggregates. Let it suffice to say that “we” and “GDP” is nebulous. At any rate, health care justice cannot be granted with the wave of a magic wand. Like any earthly and human endeavor, success has to be based on sound economic principle.

“I hope people will call their senators today and let them know they support a strong public option for health care reform. I also like to let senators know that I realize they receive campaign contributions from the health care industry. I don't think there's anything wrong with exposing the conflict of interest there. I hope that exposure makes them a little nervous. It kind of looks like bribery, doesn't it?
Matt Knoester”

Government is a conflict of interest. Cheers.


Matt,

Some thoughts on the Federal Reserve System:

You write:

"I don't know how you can write that the federal reserve, or any branch of the government, "ruined the economy," unless you qualify that by saying "by breach of their regulatory duties."


Here is a shorter answer than what needs to be said:

I would urge you to take a closer look at the Fed Reserve’s functions and effects. The Fed, the bank of banks, sitting atop a centralized cartel of fiat issue, is not a capitalist institution. It has been given near dictatorial powers over the supply of money. Its manipulations, creating money out of nothing via “fractional reserve banking”, have caused, on balance, the worst calamities in US economic history.

Fed money expansion lowers interest rates and creates the illusion that more savings exists than in reality. This lie inspires a boom time ending with a crash and clusters of “malinvestments”. Real estate, dot.com and speculative bubbles are recent examples. The government’s attempts at rectifying the situation during the bust, whether via further inflation (money creation), bank bailouts, increased taxation, price fixing, wage laws, war socialism, artificial agricultural destruction (in attempts to raise prices), and/or increased tariffs, only deepen and prolong the damage. Depressions and recessions, free from govt. interventions, are natural corrective reactions of the market.

The Great Depression is an excellent study in a Fed created boom and government delaying the recovery.

Of course, smaller business cycles may happen without a central bank engaging in credit expansion. Being aware of the Fed’s particularly concentrated power, non-market accountability, non-commodity backed fiat regime and fractional reserve banking mechanism, are the keys to understanding its unique destructiveness.

So what is FRB? Fractional reserve banking allows the money supply to increase dramatically because banks only have to carry in reserve roughly 1/9 (currently) of what they loan. The “money” in a new loan is merely reflected as a deposit. Hence, every bank is really bankrupt, for if too many depositors try to withdraw their accounts at the same time, the bank will not have it.

FRB is, indeed, a money pyramid. This inflation trickles throughout the banking world. In the American case it all starts with the Fed. It holds and creates the reserves of its giant member banks. The Fed buys assets, usually government treasuries, with, um, nothing. To repeat, it creates money out of thin air. This expansion of its assets serves to increase the reserves of its member banks. This allows these banks to create deposits and loans out of nothing and so on and so on.

The Fed may also alter reserve requirements or sell assets to constrict the money supply. Even though some may try to adjust and predict Fed inflation, they only can guess at what the real interest rate ought to be.

The Fed also engages in a hidden form of taxation. Every increase in the money supply waters down its value. Those entities using the new money first have purchasing power at the expense of those who are farthest away from the new money in time. The first receivers use the money before prices rise in reaction. If you have fixed income, you get screwed.

Matt, the Fed is an abomination.

On central banking, credit expansion, fractional reserve banking and/or the Great Depression I recommend reading Mises, Rothbard, or Hayek for starters.


Diane,

Last time I checked Ted Kennedy was still a Democrat.

I'd like to throw an idea into this very interesting discussion. This is mainly a response to Paul's point, which I hear often in many forms: "that the educational establishment got to drive for a long time and we never seemed to get any closer to where we were supposed to be going. Perhaps it's time for someone else to take the wheel."

But when non-educators take the wheel, their priorities are non-educational.

My hypothesis is that our current policies (that is, those stemming from NCLB) put high priority on students at the low end of average. To bring the "2s" up to "3" is essentially to succeed under NCLB. The severely struggling students? Reshuffle them. The advanced students? Give them something to do to kill the time. The instruction, the policies, the professional development is aimed at those just on the brink of passing the test, who with a few extra "strategies" could get that 3, give the school a boost, and prove the reforms successful.

Like so many other things, this focus then becomes a philosophy. There seems to be little conception of education beyond that which nudges up the scores of that low-middle group. Whatever accomplishes that task is deemed good. In fact, one could make a case for the idea that Balanced Literacy is geared toward those students who have basic decoding and comprehension skills but need a few tips. It is not for those who need the basics or for those who wish to study books in depth.

If this is the case, then for all our frenzy to "try new things" in the name of reform, we are creating and perpetuating a system that is stubbornly average at best.

Diana Senechal


Diana,

I agree completely and that's why I'd like to see the subsequent legislation, whether that's NCLB amended or something completely new, focus on growth models. This would allow us to track the progress of each student from one year to the next to truly determine if "ANY" child is being left behind.

I'm not convinced what's going on now is really non-educational. It focuses on students and their learning it's simply not comprehensively focused to include all cohorts of kids.

And yes, I believe over the past seven to eight years NCLB has created a system to get many of these marginal youngsters up to a specific score simply so we can call them proficient - or should I say average.

Diana:

It seems as though many states (not sure about New York) have put in place various ways of using the data on their reports cards. Some actually use a Value Added system. I haven't heard any chorus of appreciative teachers in my state. Some schools who are near the top in absolute scores find out that their kids are not making a whole year's progress, on average. But previous to the Valued Added scores are various weighted rankings that take into account placement into various categories (advanced, super-advanced, not quite proficient, etc). These rankings can be advanced by any upward movement--from super-low to not-quite-proficient, for instance, or proficient to super-advanced.

These systems were generally implemented as a check against extreme focus on getting kids over the mark and then forgetting about them. And, according most studies that I have seen, improvement has been across the board--although the gifted lobby likes to point to at least one that found less upward movement in the group already at the top (which they contend indicates that "their" kids have been overlooked).

BTW--as a parent, and I suppose one of those dastardly "non-educators" with "non-educational" priorities, I am not at all certain what the priorities of the educational establishment are--beyond ensuring employment for those in the field (not a bad thing, but not always in concert with the needs of students). But, more important, I don't know, or don't agree, that us non-educators have priorities that necessarily run counter to "education." Certainly the business community has a concern for the future labor force--just as earlier factory owners had a concern that there be a class of not too highly educated laborers. Parents, it would seem, have a concern for things that I have always taken to be educational--ensuring that their kids learn, are in a physically and emotionally safe environment to do so, and have an opportunity at the end of the day to continue or to be employed, or both, and to live up to their potential. If you can gather a group of ten educational experts who can agree on some goals that run counter to any of the above, I would like to see it.

Margo/Mom,

Whatever your experiences have been in previous particular educational systems, any educator worth his/her salt who works in the current one knows it isn't any better, and in many ways worse, at least in the urban areas. There seems to be nothing anyone can say to convince you otherwise, no matter their academic and/or professional standing. Sorry to hear that as you continue to take veiled, cheap and mostly inaccurate shots at educators on a pretty constant basis (..."beyond ensuring employment for those in the field...", etc.).

As for those dastardly "non-educators" such as yourself. Since when did any teacher on this blog dismiss the viewpoints of a parent just for being a parent? You believe otherwise but the vast majority of teachers look to parents as allies, otherwise we wouldn't be complaining about lack of parental participation, justified or not.

And since when have parents EVER gotten a say in educational priorities at the macro level? Educators' beef is not with them. They have no power either, unfortunately. The non-eductors who stick their noses in educational issues with whom we have a problem are the educational "establishment" of big businessman (most of whom still desire a caste system), corrupt politicians and the the academics who do their bidding with their most generous research funds.

These are the people who are conspiring to destroy public education, and students, teachers and parents are all the victims... not to mention society at large.

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