New data shows school “reformers” are full of it

This article is from  The article describes and discusses the decades-long push by corporations and their cynical political puppets to sucker us into so-called “reform” by shifting our gaze from structural inequalities to blaming teachers.  All of this so loads of money can go from our public hands to private pockets.

New data shows school “reformers” are full of it

Poor schools underperform largely because of economic forces, not because teachers have it too easy

New data shows school "reformers" are full of itMichelle Rhee  (Credit: © Hyungwon Kang / Reuters)

In the great American debate over education, the education and technology corporations, bankrolled politicians and activist-profiteers who collectively comprise the so-called “reform” movement base their arguments on one central premise: that America should expect public schools to produce world-class academic achievement regardless of the negative forces bearing down on a school’s particular students. In recent days, though, the faults in that premise are being exposed by unavoidable reality.

Before getting to the big news, let’s review the dominant fairy tale: As embodied by New York City’s major education announcement this weekend, the “reform” fantasy pretends that a lack of teacher “accountability” is the major education problem and somehow wholly writes family economics out of the story (amazingly, this fantasy persists even in a place like the Big Apple where economic inequality is particularly crushing). That key — and deliberate — omission serves myriad political interests.

For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public education system is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.). Likewise, for conservative politicians and activistprofiteers disproportionately bankrolled by these and other monied interests, the “reform” argument gives them a way to both talk about fixing education and to bash organized labor, all without having to mention an economic status quo that monied interests benefit from and thus do not want changed.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that many “reformers’” policies have spectacularly failed, prompted massive scandals and/or offered no actual proof of success, an elite media that typically amplifies — rather than challenges — power and money loyally casts “reformers’” systematic pillaging of public education as laudable courage (the most recent example of this is Time magazine’s cover cheering on wildly unpopular Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after he cited budget austerity to justify the largest mass school closing in American history — all while he is also proposing to spend $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a new private sports stadium).

In other words, elite media organizations (which, in many cases, have their own vested financial interest in education “reform”) go out of their way to portray the anti-public-education movement as heroic rather than what it really is: just another get-rich-quick scheme shrouded in the veneer of altruism.

That gets to the news that exposes “reformers’” schemes — and all the illusions that surround them. According to a new U.S. Department of Education study, “about one in five public schools was considered high poverty in 2011 … up from about to one in eight in 2000.” This followed an earlier study from the department finding that “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding … leav(ing) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.”

Those data sets powerfully raise the question that “reformers” are so desperate to avoid: Are we really expected to believe that it’s just a coincidence that the public education and poverty crises are happening at the same time? Put another way: Are we really expected to believe that everything other than poverty is what’s causing problems in failing public schools?

Because of who comprises it and how it is financed, the education “reform” movement has a clear self-interest in continuing to say yes, we should believe such fact-free pabulum. And you can bet that movement will keep saying “yes” — and that the corporate media will continue to cheer them as heroes for saying “yes” — as long as public education money keeps being diverted into corporate coffers.

But we’ve now reached the point where the economics-omitting “reform” propaganda has jumped the shark, going from deceptively alluring to embarrassingly transparent. That’s because the latest Department of Education study isn’t being released in a vacuum; it caps off an overwhelming wave of evidence showing that our education crisis has far less to do with public schools or bad teachers than it does with the taboo subject of crushing poverty.

In 2011, for instance, Stanford University’s Sean Reardon released a comprehensive study documenting the new “income achievement gap.” The report proved that family income is now, by far, the biggest determining and predictive factor in a student’s educational achievement.

A few months later, Joanne Barkan published a groundbreaking magazine reportsurveying decades worth of social science research. Her conclusions, again, came back to non-school factors like family economics and poverty:

Out-of-school factors—family characteristics such as income and parents’ education, neighborhood environment, health care, housing stability, and so on—count for twice as much as all in-school factors. In 1966, a groundbreaking government study—the “Coleman Report”—first identified a “one-third in-school factors, two-thirds family characteristics” ratio to explain variations in student achievement. Since then researchers have endlessly tried to refine or refute the findings. Education scholar Richard Rothstein described their results: “No analyst has been able to attribute less than two-thirds of the variation in achievement among schools to the family characteristics of their students.”

Then, just a few months ago, Reardon chimed in again to contextualize all of this. In a follow-up New York Times article, he noted that it is no coincidence that these out-of-school factors — and in particular economic conditions — have created the “income achievement gap” at the very moment economic inequality and poverty have exploded in America.

Taken together with the new Department of Education numbers, we see that for all the elite media’s slobbering profiles of public school bashers like Mayors Rahm Emanuel and Michael Bloomberg, for all of the media’s hagiographic worship of scandal-plaguedactivist-profiteers like Michelle Rhee, and for all the “reform” movement’s claims that the traditional public school system and teachers unions are to blame for America’s education problems, poverty and economic inequality are the root of the problem.

One way to appreciate this reality in stark relief is to just remember that, as Barkan shows, for all the claims that the traditional public school system is flawed, America’s wealthiest traditional public schools happen to be among the world’s highest-achieving schools. Most of those high-performing wealthy public schools also happen to be unionized. If, as “reformers” suggest, the public school system or the presence of organized labor was really the key factor in harming American education, then those wealthy schools would be in serious crisis — and wouldn’t be at the top of the international charts. Instead, the fact that they aren’t in crisis and are so high-achieving suggests neither the system itself nor unions are the big factor causing high-poverty schools to lag behind. It suggests that the “high poverty” part is the problem.

That, of course, shouldn’t be a controversial notion; it is so painfully obvious it’s amazing anyone would even try to deny it. But that gets back to motive: The “reform” movement (and its loyal media outlets) cast a discussion of poverty as taboo because poverty and inequality are byproducts of the same economic policies that serve that movement’s funders.

To understand this pernicious bait and switch that writes economics out of the education story, simply think through the motives.

Think first about how the dominant policy paradigms in America — tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and budget cuts to social services — exacerbate inequality and poverty, but also benefit the major corporations that fund the “reform” movement. Then think about how it isn’t a coincidence that the “reform” movement’s goal is to divert the education policy conversation away from anything having to do with poverty and economic inequality.

You can tell that’s not a coincidence because unlike other issues, the topics of poverty and economic inequality will inevitably prompt a conversation about changing the underlying economic policies (regressive taxes, deregulation, etc.) that create crushing poverty and inequality. For corporations served by the existing economic paradigm and for the politicians and activists those corporations underwrite, such a conversation is simply unacceptable because changing the policies that create poverty and inequality potentially threatens their existing financial power and privilege. Thus, those corporations, politicians and activists in the “reform” movement do whatever they can — bash teachers, scream strong-but-meaningless words like “accountability,” criticize public school structures, etc. — to shift the education conversation away from poverty and inequality.

Reality, though, is finally catching up with the “reform” movement’s propaganda. With poverty and inequality intensifying, a conversation about the real problem is finally starting to happen. And the more education “reformers” try to distract from it, the more they will expose the fact that they aren’t driven by concern for kids but by the ugliest kind of greed — the kind that feigns concerns for kids in order to pad the corporate bottom line.

David SirotaDavid Sirota is a senior writer for the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books “Hostile Takeover,” “The Uprising” and “Back to Our Future.” E-mail him at, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at


Where Men Aren’t Working In Our Region

Click on the links to see an interactive map of the places in Turlock, Modesto, Merced, and Fresno where working-age men (25-54) aren’t working.

Where Men Aren’t Working – Turlock, CA

Where Men Aren’t Working – Modesto, CA

Where Men Aren’t Working – Merced, CA

Where Men Aren’t Working – Fresno, CA

Solidarity: Brief Accounts of Black and Latino Unity from the Late 1800s to the Present

Below is an article from Latino Rebels that I’ve copied in its entirety. It’s an excellent account of a few of the many times in our history that African-Americans and Latinos have engaged in solidarity for the benefit of all peoples.

Solidarity: Brief Accounts of Black and Latino Unity from the Late 1800s to the Present

The Late 1800s


Arturo Alfonso Schomburg —born in Santurce, Puerto Rico— was a prominent figure during the Harlem Renaissance. He moved to Harlem in 1891 at the young age of 17. Schomburg was a self-proclaimed Afroborinqueño who later helped found the Negro Society for Historical Research. Known today as one of the fathers of what we call African American/Africana Studies, Schomburg was also dedicated to a different major cause of his time—the liberation of Cuba and Puerto Rico from the grips of Spain.

New York City was an immigrant enclave for Cubans, Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean political leaders during the late 1800s. Iconic names like Martí, Hostos, Maceo and Betances all made stops in the city to coordinate revolutionary actions in the islands. In similar tradition, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg joined organizations such as the Jose Martí affiliated Las Dos Antillas and became a member of the Comité Revolucionario de Puerto Rico. He also found brotherhood as a Freemason by joining “El Sol de Cuba Lodge #38.” This lodge was unique because they conducted all business in Spanish. Founded under the African American institution of Prince Hall Masonry, El Sol de Cuba became a place where Latinos could organize in New York. Forced segregation would often mean that White and Black Latinos didn’t live near each other. The Diaspora was integrated into the fabric of American racial politics. But this lodge helped members connect with other American Blacks while promoting community service, independence politics, Afro-Latino history and other endeavors they saw fit as a group. Internal records show that brother masons —including Martí— visited from nearly every republic in South America at some point during the Spanish speaking era of the lodge’s history.

Schomburg and other Afro-Latinos chose to organize themselves within some of the established Black American organizations in a very intentional manner. America has long been a nation that does not fully value the humanity of Black people. It’s likely that this reality was made clear to immigrant of color. El Sol de Cuba is an example where Latino immigrants actively worked to break down some of the barriers presented by the new country they called home. They found —in Black American and West Indian communities— other marginalized groups that faced similar challenges.

These collaborations and associations would continue throughout the decades at different levels. Across the country, Black and Latino communities often crossed paths as the marginalized groups in their cities and townships. Some Latinos (who could pass) would racially socialize as White in their communities. This would play a key role in their interactions with Black people around them. Still, Latino and Black populations became victims of public lynchings, disfranchisement, discrimination, and other established practices reserved for the non-White people of America.

The Civil Rights Era

During the Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, we find a documented period of unity between Black and Latinos. Chicano Civil Rights leader Reies López Tijerina held private meetings with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad from the Nation of Islam concerning commonalities in their movements. Cuban leader Fidel Castro chose to stay in Harlem and met with Malcolm X during one of his visits to New York. César Chávez openly spoke about learning from other movements’ areas of strength. King was also a Chávez supporter:

As brothers in the fight for equality, I extend the hand of fellowship and good will and wish continuing success to you and your members…You and your valiant fellow workers have demonstrated your commitment to righting grievous wrongs forced upon exploited people. We are together with you in spirit and in determination that our dreams for a better tomorrow will be realized.
—MLK to Chavez September, 1966

Organizations like the Young Lords (mostly Puerto Rican) and the Brown Berets (mostly Chicano) would both join Fred Hampton’s (Black Panthers) Rainbow Coalition of radical grass roots organizations. They organized within their own communities and then joined forces at points of common interest.

Via Tumblr
There was a growing awareness amongst Black and Latino Civil Rights leaders that the communities had much in common as part of the marginalized and oppressed communities within the country. A key example was the historic 1967 meeting called together by López Tijerina during the annual meeting of the Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres.

Representatives from major Black and Chicano Civil Rights organizations convened to discuss a unity agenda. Notable names included the U.S. Organization, Black Panther Party, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Mexican American Youth Organization and Crusade for Justice. Even the Hopi Nation sent a representative. Bilingual meetings where screams of “Black Power,” “Chicano Power” and “Poder Negro” could be heard. Speeches critiqued White Supremacy and detailed a need for basic unity in their common struggle for civil and human rights. Ultimately, this cross-ethnic gathering resulted in the signing of an agreement titled the “Treaty of Peace, Harmony, and Mutual Assistance.”

An agreement between all represented Black and Brown organizations where groups agreed to respect each of the separate movements and work together when possible. Leaders understood that division existed between the communities. One line from said treaty states that: “Both peoples do promise not to permit the members of either of said peoples to make false propaganda of any kind whatsoever against each other, either by SPEECH or WRITING.” Another explains that “both peoples, make a solemn promise, to cure and remedy the historical errors and differences that exist between said peoples.”

Over time, most of the major Civil Rights organizations lost influence due to, in no small part, a concerted effort by the American government. Programs like COINTELPRO would lead to the assassination or imprisonment of leaders and propaganda was spread to discredit many of the organizations. Nevertheless, Black and Latino communities were able to gain victories with their efforts.

Angela Davis, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, and Ernesto Vigil at Loretto Heights College in Denver, Colorado on April 28, 1973.
Photo: Pablo Castro
The Rise of Hip Hop

In the 1970s and 1980s, we begin to see the rise of Hip Hop. The children of the Civil Rights movement in New York City were still marginalized and living in close proximity to each other. Organically, this socio-political culture began to rise amongst the youth. It was a way of life that included rappers, DJs, break dancers and graffiti artists. Black and Latinos were both key parts that created this new expression of a unique lived reality. Rapper QTip broke it down in an excellent Twitter history lesson when he wrote:

But during these strides this country still had the monster of racism and racial insensitivity breathing and ruling… believe it or not young black n Latino lives specifically weren’t acknowledged in mainstream American culture unless Of course.. the convo was abt gangs , being criminals or uneducated. And hey! Like I stated early our families were rushed our schools sucked and we were left to put devices to survive… but HIPHOP showed that we had DEPTH, fire, and BRILLIANCE… the music was undeniable! It moved from NY N became national and even GLOBAL.

Hip Hop artists have a long history of calling for unity between Black and Brown in this country. Artists Fat Joe and Ice Cube have also explain their perspective on the topic:

A lot of Latinos are influenced by me and I try to show them that there is no difference between Blacks and Latinos. In any area you find a large amount of Black people, you find a large amount of Latinos. If we learn to get together and become one, we can become a majority, we could become at least much stronger. We could unify. We could Express our issues and what we are concerned with in our community. And they have to listen to us because us together as one form a large number of voters so we demand our respect.—Fat Joe

My thing is, the Black and the Brown have always shared California…I think it sounds silly to be trying to kick people out who’ve been here before America. You know, That don’t make no sense. I just think people should figure out a way to include these people into our society. They already here and let’s make it happen. You know, I think it’ll be better for everybody.—Ice Cube

Music speaks to the soul of a large segment of young people today. Hip Hop has served as a cultural tie between Black and Latinos since its inception as a culture and way of life. Language is no barrier. Legendary groups like Public Enemy performing in places like Brazil and Spanish Hip Hop or Reggaeton collaborations with US artists in growing numbers demonstrate that Hip Hop will continue to serve as a point of unity.

The Present Day

It is still possible to find expressions of Black and Latino solidarity today. Texas LULAC and NAACP groups worked together fighting racist textbook standards for students in 2010. Across the nation, there are grassroots efforts with Latino and Black organizations working together to combat diverse issues including voter disfranchisement, healthcare, and police brutality. There are countless issues where challenges both communities face intersect. It is at these points that an effort could be made to work together.

Organizing has resulted in the unique position of Blacks and Latinos in America to be acknowledged by the United Nations Committee Against Torture:

The Committee is particularly concerned at the reported current police violence in Chicago, especially against African American and Latino young people who are allegedly being consistently profiled, harassed and subjected to excessive force by Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers. It also expresses its deep concern at the frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals. In this regard, the Committee notes the alleged difficulties to hold police officers and their employers accountable for abuses.

The growing movement against police brutality and use of excessive force is that type of opportunity. Latinos and Blacks both face disproportionate rates of incarceration and racial profiling. An awareness of these lived realities are slowly, but surely creeping into the mainstream consciousness of America. Embracing the banner of “Black Lives Matter” is that type of opportunity. It will never mean Latino life or any other life matters any less. This is a chance to stand in solidarity with African Americans who have brought the issue to the front door of America. Another point in the history of cross-cultural relations. A chance for the Latino community to show the significant portion of Afro-Latinos that their lives matter.

There are plenty of instances where the two communities have been at odds. Those who prefer separation will focus on those occasions. Others will choose to walk in the tradition of King, Chavez, Malcolm and Reies. Solidarity is the best way forward. Unity is a tool that helps both groups progress. Where will you stand in history?

Carlos Martinez is a counselor, writer and higher education professional. He is the creator of Carlos Thinks. You can follow Carlos on Twitter @kacike1931.

A Matter of Gaze

Really excellent analysis of women’s portrayals on commercial media. In the same vein as Goffman’s Codes of Gender.

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

Recently, I tried to watch the new Netflix series, Marco Polo, and made it through three whole episodes before ragequitting in a fit of disgust. It wasn’t the lacklustre pacing and derivative scripting that got to me, though they certainly didn’t help: it was the Orientalism and rampant misogyny that saw every female character – all of them women of colour – either viscerally sexualised or defined solely by their relationships with men. That the show took the character of Khutulun, a Mongol warrior who famously vowed never to marry unless her husband could best her at wrestling, and turned her into a smirking seductress in a leather skirt was bad enough; but having her father state that Khutulun’s ‘virginity’ was ‘promised’ to a warrior who could defeat her – reframing an arguably feminist decision as a sexist mandate and thereby stripping her of its agency – had me spitting fire…

View original post 1,182 more words

Understanding “Selfies” Through a Theoretical Lens

This is a great blog that discusses why we take selfies.

I am pasting the blog in its entirety here:

A Sociological Snapshot of Selfies

By Peter Kaufman

Twerking. Phablet. MOOC. Flatform. Bitcoin. Apols. Omnishambles. These are just some of the new words that were added to the Oxford Online Dictionaries in 2013. All of these words found their way into the popular vernacular of the English-speaking world during the past year and were used widely in various settings. But the unanimous choice for Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year was selfie. In fact, among the staff at Oxford there was not even any debate; selfie was the hands-down, clear-cut winner.

According to the now official Oxford definition, a selfie is:

a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website: [usage] occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary.

The word has also given birth to some offshoots such as legsies (a photo of one’s legs), drelfies (a photo of one in a drunken state), belfies (also known as Selfie 4butt selfies), and one of the latest trends, felfies (selfies of farmers). There is even a Selfie Olympics (#SelfieOlympic) in which individuals try to outdo each other with their daring and outlandish photos. 

The selfie craze has garnered a lot of attention and after the newly-minted distinSelfie 5ction from Oxford Dictionaries, commentaries on selfies increased. Not surprisingly, much of what is written about selfies focuses on the self. The word we hear most often from media commentators in analyzing selfies is narcissism—“an excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance.” From NPR to The Guardian to The New Yorker to the New York Times (via James Franco), selfies are interpreted and criticized as a shallow, attention-getting way to highlight and promote the inSelfie 7dividual.

When I hear these observations about selfies I can’t help but think that something is missing. There is no denying that selfies have an individual component; however, attempting to “explain social phenomena in terms of facts and theories about the make-up of individuals” is what C. Wright Mills termed a psychologism. Selfies are clearly a social phenomenon as well as a social fad. As such, if we want to Selfie 6understand selfies we cannot only focus on the individual. Mills suggests, and as the discipline of sociology teaches us, we must not deny the social structural reality in trying to understand social processes. Here, then, are some sociological considerations relating to selfies.

Selfie 9First, it is important to understand that selfies originate from the world in which we live as opposed to being products of individuals themselves. This point was made over 150 years ago by Karl Marx: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” In other words, selfies arise out of the social Selfie 10conditions of our lives: the technology and cheap labor that make wallet-size cameras readily available, the hi-tech innovations that allow us to upload pictures in an instant, and the increasing norm and emerging forms of social media.

In the past, people captured themselves graphically through other means—from the earliest cliff paintings to commissioned portraitures and Selfie 11professional photography. Today, we have the material means and the relative ease to transmit images and stories of ourselves electronically. Even if you feel strongly that selfies epitomize a narcissistic personality type, it’s hard to deny that such a form can only exist if the external factors (technology and cultural norms) are present.

Second, I would argue that selfies are just as much, if not more, about the other as they are about the self. This point may be hard to fathom, especially for those who fail to see Selfie 12the value of social explanations, but I would think that most sociologists understand selfies as forms of impression management. Erving Goffman coined this phrase to convey the extent to which we act in certain ways so that other people respond to us the way we want them to respond. Goffman talked Selfie 13about “face work” as the mechanism through we present ourselves to others in an effort to win their approval.

The whole purpose of taking a selfie is to share it with others. And the reason why we share it with others is to influence how those people observe us. Selfies are meant to be disseminated to a larger audience; they are not solely intended for private viewing. If selfies were only being used by the individual to excessively admire oneself (as Selfie 15the definition of narcissism suggests), then they would not be a social phenomenon. In this sense, I would even go as far to say that everything about a selfie—from the staging of the photo to the posting of the photo—is a social act intended to garner a social reaction (obviously, all reactions are social but this fact seems to be lost in the analysis of selfies).

Selfie 16Combining these two sociological points we might argue, thirdly, that selfies are a new form of identity work. Identity work is a concept used by David Snow and Leon Anderson to explain the strategies individuals use to transform personal identity avowals into social identity imputations. In other words, we each have a sense of who we are and who we want to be (personal identity) and through our actions we hope to have this  particular self-conception reflected Selfie 17back to us by others (social identity). (Interesting side note that is not etymologically based: the sound “sell” is in the world selfie and that’s really what selfies are—an attempt to sell an identity of ourselves to others.)

The proliferation of selfies signals a new, technologically-driven form of identity work. Selfies allow individuals an innovative mechanism through which they can signify to others how they want to be acknowledged and perceived.  Selfie 18In all identity work there is no guarantee that the audience will certify your desired personal identity. For example, you may identify yourself as a happy person but if others identify you as a grouch don’t be surprised when they start calling you Oscar (which probably will make you grouchy). However, this fact may shed light on why selfies have flourished. It’s possible that the more pictures you post of yourself promoting a certain identity—buff, sexy, adventurous, studious, funny, daring, etc.—the more likely it is that others will endorse this identity of you.

Selfie 19Selfies, then, could be understood as examples of the looking-glass self writ large. Charles Horton Cooley used this metaphor in 1902 to explain the development of our self conceptions. The looking-glass self has three components: (1) we imagine how other perceive us; (2) we imagine their judgment of us; and (3) we feel something from this imagined judgment such as pride, joy, or embarrassment.

Selfie 20Selfies allow us to use our own staged photos so that we can try to dictate how others perceive us. Because we are producing the photo and then voluntarily sharing it with others in a specific context or site that we choose, we hope to control the judgment that others have of us. Most, if not all, selfies are Selfie 1intended to elicit a positive feeling from the presumed judgment of others. As an example, consider the selfies in this post. I solicited them mostly from students, and not surprisingly, they are pretty mild as far as selfies go. Just as students talk differently with their professors than with their friends, so too did they presumably send me different selfies than the ones they may circulate among their peers. In each instance, speech and image, students are working to ensure a desired judgment of them by the professor.

The themes I raise are certainly not the only sociological interpretations of selfies. For example, in the context of gender there is an interesting debate as to whether selfies are empowering or degrading for girls. Other discussions have considered selfies from a social constructivist perspective with some arguing that selfies are a form of art while others suggest that “selfies are no more art than a can of paint falling on a blank piece of paper is a Jackson Pollock.” The take away point from all of these considerations is that selfies should be understood as more than just exercises in one dimensional narcissism. So the next time you take one, post one, or view one, try to analyze that selfie in a social context.