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What’s So Different about Trump?

What’s So Different about Trump?

(This caricature of Donald Trump is by DonkeyHotey.)

As we move into Week three of the new presidency, the number of faux pas has exceeded all other presidencies. Supporters of Trump will say that he is just settling in to his new role and everything will be fine. They support his inconsistent, impromptu decisions because there are few choices other than to admit they screwed up and elected him or actually agree with those whom they have disdained for the past 8 years: the Democrats. Wow! The latter choice would be embarrassing and by the way, would be a bipartisan act, something they wouldn’t be caught dead doing. After all, what is more important: the fate of the nation or getting reelected? No choice there.

The More Important Issue

Aside from the ridiculousness of the above actions, there is a greater threat. We have a child leading the free world, a narcissistic, self-serving 10-year old who needs to be constantly stroked and told that he is a good boy. Why else would he repeatedly recount his inauguration and how great it was, even in the most unlikely and inappropriate places.

“Had a great meeting at CIA Headquarters yesterday, packed house, paid great respect to Wall, long standing ovations, amazing people. WIN!” Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday morning.

But while Trump saw the speech as a win, recently departed CIA chief John Brennan said he was “deeply saddened” by Trump’s speech, where his focus seemed to stray from the CIA agents in attendance to his own accomplishments.
– via POLITICO

In a third tweet on Sunday, he said, “Wow, television ratings just out: 31 million people watched the Inauguration, 11 million more than the very good ratings from 4 years ago!”
– via POLITICO

President Trump is declaring the day of his inauguration a “National Day of Patriotic Devotion,” according to a document to be published on Tuesday in the Federal Register.
– via TheHill

Another childlike characteristic is his dislike for those who disagree with him. While most 10-year olds might not speak out, this is a 10-year old who has the power both to voice and act on his dislikes. Because of Trump’s self-spoken racist stance, Congressman Lewis chose not to attend the inauguration or recognize Trump as a legitimate president.

“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!”
– via Caleb Parke

Like a 10-year old, every response Trump makes includes a subjective, disparaging comment meant to deligitimize and belittle the one disagreeing with him. Even when talking with other world leaders, he cannot refrain from being rude and abrasive…oh, and getting in his final gig.

“This is the worst deal ever,” Mr Trump reportedly said about the refugee deal, complaining that he was “going to get killed” politically. He also accused Australia of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers”.
– via NewsComAu

Another characteristic of this 10-year old “leader” is his spontaneous decision-making. A person with the power of this office has always had a strong team of advisors with whom to consult before speaking, those who can help him weigh the consequences of the planned action. Not so with this guy.

It wasn’t until Friday — the day Trump signed the order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and suspending all refugee admission for 120 days — that career homeland security staff were allowed to see the final details of the order, a person familiar with the matter said.
The result was widespread confusion across the country on Saturday as airports struggled to adjust to the new directives. In New York, two Iraqi nationals sued the federal government after they were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and 10 others were detained as well.
– via CNN

Rather than consult with experts before blurting out a poorly-planned, impulsive decision, it seems that Trump has no problem contradicting himself or letting his loyal pets (staff) lie for him. The self-stated “immigration ban” has been defended by his puppies saying that it really isn’t a ban and for sure, is not a “muslim ban.”

“It’s working out very nicely,” Trump told reporters. “You see it at the airports. You see it all over. It’s working out very nicely and we’re going to have a very, very strict ban, and we’re going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years.” (emphasis added)
– via CNN

White House press secretary Sean Spicer blamed the media for casting the controversial policy as a “travel ban.”

“It’s not a Muslim ban. It’s not a travel ban,” Spicer told reporters. “It’s a vetting system to keep America safe.”

Spicer’s comments drew a flurry of questions from reporters, who pointed to a number of instances in which Trump called it a “ban.”
– via TheHill

Kellyanne Conway also ran to Trump’s support, saying that it was not a Muslim ban and that former President Obama had done a similar ban. This was an outright lie as no such event ever occurred. Digging a bit deeper, it seems that it was both a ban and a Muslim ban.

Former New York mayor Rudy W. Giuliani said President Trump wanted a “Muslim ban” and requested he assemble a commission to show him “the right way to do it legally.”
– via Washington Post

A Ten-Year Old Boy Who Needs Someone To Constantly Clean Up His Messes

This post only touches the surface of what will undoubtedly be a disaster that will have far-reaching impacts for the U.S. and the world. He has surrounded himself with a cabinet who strokes him both financially and with their actions, humoring him as the child he is.

To Congress

Our country is being run by a powerful child whose actions will destroy all of us. The sad truth is that our hope rests in the hands of you, our representatives who seem incapable of acting as if you have spines. To all of you: You cannot be reelected if the current leadership continues to move toward a dictatorship with the military might to exclude you. Pull your collective heads out of your asses and do your job.
I am closing with a letter to former President Obama in November, 2016, warning him of Trump’s probably mental illness:

 

November 29, 2016

Dear President Obama,

We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the mental stability of our President-Elect. Professional standards do not permit us to venture a diagnosis for a public figure whom we have not evaluated personally. Nevertheless, his widely reported symptoms of mental instability — including grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality — lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office. We strongly recommend that, in preparation for assuming these responsibilities, he receive a full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation by an impartial team of investigators.

Sincerely,

Judith Herman, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

Nanette Gartrell, M.D.
Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
University of California, San Francisco (1988-2011)
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School (1983-87)

Dee Mosbacher, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department of Community Health Systems
University of California, San Francisco (2005-2013)
– via The Huffington Post

A More Dangerous World… Some Thoughts

A More Dangerous World… Some Thoughts

While we have always lived in a society that favors a normalized, white model, one that reserves power and privilege to those who fit that norm, acts reinforcing -isms have been covertly perpetuated. There have always been open acts but limited in scope. The majority continued to hide their true natures…until now.

A major shift in the political structure is now occurring. A person who has proclaimed himself to be racist, sexist, classist, exhibiting other disparaging behavior toward those different from him will soon lead us. While he denies these behaviors, there is now a public record that invalidates those denials.

The shift in political structure is more about institutional -isms than about political ideology. The frame is the norm of whiteness which leaders validate as acceptable and desirable. Politics and power are inseparable because human beings write and pass legislation. Other human beings feed their needs by reinforcing the actions that perpetuate Whiteness.

The overt behaviors of the leaders of the country have given license to those less powerful to broadcast their -isms through both words and actions. This is now happening at all levels. Schools are reporting an increase in racist, sexist acts of violence toward those students considered “different” and therefore, inferior and a threat. There is an increase in violent acts toward non-Christians, especially Muslims, deemed as the “enemy.” It is more common to see whites in coffee shops, stores, and other public places glaring at anyone who looks or acts differently.

Why are there -isms?

Why do we have -isms? That is a complex problem that has many possible answers depending upon one’s philosophy. For example, a psychologist might say -isms result from an inferiority complex; individuals project their inadequacies on others rather than face who they are. School children demonstrate this behavior as they tease or even bully other students. It becomes life-threatening when done by adults. An economist would see this as behavior to protect individual wealth and property by excluding others from access to it. There are many ways to explain the phenomenon but the result is always the same. The dominant person continues to benefit from the behavior while the recipient suffers the consequences.

World History is Rife with Injustice and Oppression

Social injustice is not something unique to the “New World.” People fleeing Europe did so to escape those conditions. Societies have always evolved into systems of power, privilege, and domination, excluding those redefined as the Others. Pecking orders seem to be inherent in social structures of all kinds, at all levels. I am not saying this to justify such structures but to draw attention to the need to have a plan in place if those structures are removed. Again, history is replete with revolutions, coups, and assassinations that created a power vacuum soon filled by another often worse group of leaders.

Whiteness and Dominance

Whites are so immersed in whiteness that the effects of their own privilege slip past their consciousness, never to be considered as contributing factors to the skewed distribution of resources and opportunities that have placed white males in most positions of decision-making. They can consider the troubles of others while remaining aloof and unaffected by them. They can perform a beneficent act to assuage any hint of guilt that may somehow find its way to their awareness. All the while, they move through my life, attributing their unearned privileges to personal hard work and achievement. The common denominator of dominance and hegemony centers on elite, rich, white men as the model on which to base normalcy. Others elaborate, describing it as a paternalistic, elitist, capitalist, white supremacist power structure. However worded, the ultimate gatekeepers are the same group. This is the whiteness that allows domination to run rampant, perpetuating itself with a vengeance exacted upon the Others, primarily people of color, who somehow remain at the “bottom of the well” of society. Clerks in stores watch Black people while white people steal them blind; a tag team of shoplifters that uses White storekeepers’ racism against them. In a peer group composed of women and people of color, the group almost always considers white men to be the authority figures although they may have done nothing to show that.  Beverly Tatum (1999) called racism a smog we all breathe, but white people seem to have invisible gas masks because few ever confront whiteness. Perpetuation of structural whiteness has been accomplished by establishing a “normalized” model that is elite, rich, white, and male. Media representations, schooling, and legislation all support this model that portrays a strange, commonsense, “white as right” epistemology. Since this white epistemology permeates every aspect of life, it is reasonable to assume that it also normalizes both feeling and emotive expression (R. Turner, 1976).

The only true beneficiaries of whiteness are white men although other groups—white women, lighter-skinned groups, and even well-to-do people of color—are superficially included. In this dominant and hegemonic system, those whom it favors have the privilege to ignore the life-threatening effects that others experience daily. White men continue to ignore or suppress this paternalistic, white supremacist power structure because it showers them with unmerited power, privilege, and advantages. Thus, they continue to consciously and subconsciously support this oppressive system. In a similar manner, the normalized model, reinforced by media, schooling, and other social structures, often assimilates people of color. By playing their roles in the dominant system, they may also support the system that oppresses them or at the least, be complicitous in it by not confronting it. There is no assurance that anyone in these groups will work for social justice even when confronted with their positions. However, until reaching that initial awareness, there is no chance for further change. For the critical pedagogue, leading the student to a new awareness becomes the crucial first step to learning and change.

Summary

This is a complex, convoluted issue that may never be fully resolved. Meanwhile, it grows more menacing with sanctioning from the country’s leaders.

Filling a Void

Filling a Void

Before WW2, people in Germany with any sense at all left the country for safer places, concerned Adolf Hitler would lead them into ruin. He led Germany into what many would call, Hell on Earth, as the German people, in their fear of losing whatever being German meant, put their hopes in a psychopath. A tear had formed in the fabric of Germany, facing the consequences of starting a war that destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, economically stressed to the breaking point, and just tired of being treated as outcasts by the world. Germany was looking for anyone who would promise salvation and hope. It is no surprise they saw salvation in someone who told them what they wanted to hear, someone who promised to make Germany great once more, to restore order and prosperity. Hitler was not so much a strong leader as he was someone who filled a void.

History Repeating Itself?

Like post war Germany, the U.S. seems to be doing the same thing. White people, afraid of losing whatever “being American” meant and not knowing what to do, led by a group of leaders seeking their personal gain and prestige with no moral character, ran into the void filled by another psychopath who told them what they wanted to hear, someone who promised salvation and hope, someone who will “make America great again” by removing those things threatening to take away the rights and freedoms of “God-fearing, hard working White Americans.”

Once the majority, white Americans are understandably scared about their inevitable decline into a minority population. The country is diversifying as California already has; Latinos have outnumbered whites in the state since 2015, and demographers predict whites will become a minority in the United States by 2060. While some white people scoff at the complaints of minorities, they seem implicitly to understand that being a minority has not always been a pleasant experience — hence their fear of becoming a minority. These white people demand their country back, a more prosperous America where they once owned the culture.
– via latimes.com

Do You Fit the Norm?

As in Germany, if you do not fit the physical, social, and ideological norm, you will find yourself outside the circle of craziness. Such a system does not sit idly by and ignore those who disagree with how it operates. It is equipped with surveillance subsystems that constantly monitor all, looking for those who might “rock the boat” and dealing with them through penalties, punishments, or isolating them much like honeybees starve out drones when they no longer need them. Hitler focused his wrath on both Jews and those who held conflicting ideologies.

In 1921 Hitler set up a group within the NSDAP that would protect his political meetings from attacks by rivals. It gave a military look, feel and discipline to the party. This group was known as the ‘stormtroopers’ (Sturm Abteilung – SA) or ‘Brownshirts’.

Many members of the SA were former soldiers unemployed since the end of the war. As the SA grew in size, rather than simply protecting Hitler and Nazi meetings from opponents, they began to disrupt the meetings of rival political groups.

As the Nazis gained power through democratic means, the SA gained a reputation as a well-organised gang of violent thugs. This frightened and put many off Nazism, but others were attracted by the organisation and discipline of a uniformed group.
– via www.theholocaustexplained.org

There are few differences in what happened in Germany and what is now happening in the U.S. The Racial Contract and Whiteness still dictate the terms of acceptance. Normalized White people will overtly and covertly support those systems that have always favored them, afraid to lose their power and privilege, choosing to ignore and even supporting the policies and social systems that exclude the Other. Charles Mills, in his book, The Racial Contract, gives insight into this silent White majority, that whites have

… an agreement to misinterpret the world. … to learn to see the world wrongly, but with the assurance that this set of mistaken perceptions will be validated by white epistemic authority, whether religious or secular…
-(1997, p. 18)

Just as the majority in Germany closed their eyes as millions of Jews—and Germans— were led to their deaths, Whites will close their eyes to the exclusion and extermination of the Others in the U.S. Led by another psychopathic madman, we will travel the same path as borders continue to close, military power continues to grow, and sanctions create a killing field for those who are different.

The Hidden Roots of “Being American”

The U.S. is founded on thievery. It is built on stolen land using stolen resources using the stolen lives of slaves and immigrant workers. The American “culture” is a hodgepodge of appropriated customs and practices. We call it “borrowing, ” but it is thievery; there was never an intention to return any of those things.

Cultural appropriation is an entirely different matter. It has little to do with one’s exposure to and familiarity with different cultures. Instead, cultural appropriation typically involves members of a dominant group exploiting the culture of less privileged groups — often with little understanding of the latter’s history, experience and traditions.
– via About.com News & Issues

It does not take much digging to uncover the skeletons on which the U.S. society is built. Our social system is built upon the privilege of the few and exploitation of the masses. What we have comes from living in a system that gives us privilege and power, advantages in access to resources and opportunities free from fear of retaliation or punishment. We justify our advantages and exploitations by first making the Other “less than” then giving our thievery a kind of moral validity; we “deserve” what we have because we are better than those who had it. In that deviated logic, it is ethical to steal and cheat, to appropriate what we need to enjoy life.

Education or Profit?

Education or Profit?

Introduction

The free market economy has redefined education. Once upon a time, in a world far, far away, one without neoliberal capitalism and a market economy, a person could get a real education. Whether it was an undergraduate degree or a doctoral degree, it reflected a person’s ability to contribute to a field of study with significant research and to develop programs that could improve the state of affairs. Education was considered a state of mind, a lifelong learning process. The educated person’s goal was to make the world a better place for all.

There are a few, but not very many, higher education institutions that have given serious thought to what it might mean to be an educated person in this day and age and then fashioned, as a collegium, a serious integrated, coherent curriculum in response to that analysis.  The modern university, with some notable exceptions, has given up trying to define what it means to be an educated person.
– via Education Week – Top Performers

All that went away with a market economy that linked education credentials to income and job promotions. Having a degree now means getting paid more money and not about the learning experience. Students get an education today almost the same way they buy a new car. They see it as a cash investment over time and expect the product to be there regardless of what they do. College student recruiting strategies have changed marketing strategies. While still promoted as a rigorous but rich journey through the realms of existing knowledge toward new and uncharted understandings that expand the mind and develop socially aware individuals, the hidden agenda focuses on skills training to jumpstart a profitable career.

Academia inadvertently contributes to this shift toward commodification by demanding more academic activities from an already overworked faculty. Many faculty positions are advertised with requirements that are so ridiculous, few applicants could meet all of them. While the intent is to promote creativity and quality, the results are fabricated resumés (CVs) and rushed, poor quality publications to portray the image of a qualified professional. It is a sham and is growing daily. Further, faculty who persist in “the way things used to be” are finding themselves being marginalized and pushed out of education like outdated equipment, incapable of meeting “production goals.” They are like Don Quixote, tilting with the windmill of neoliberal capitalistic profit-based education, in a no-win campaign.

Casting Blame or Distracting Attention?

There is a trend to cast disparagements upon online education, but brick-and-mortar institutions are not exempt from the commodification of education. Universities that once had restrictive policies based on test scores and coursework for incoming students now have open enrollment programs to increase cash flow. Instead of having challenging curricula, they develop programs to accommodate unprepared students who feel that the University is there to provide them a service they paid for. Quality in education may still exist in the minds of some educators but it does not exist in the minds of those decision-makers and administrators who continue to expect more for less in a race to increase profit by increasing ratings and percentages of students graduating while maintaining the appearance of quality.

Roots of the Shift

Changes in the education process are inextricably linked to the neoliberal capitalist system that commodifies everything. It is no longer a matter of quality but is an exchange of payment for goods. The roots of the shift from education as an enriching experience to one about career preparation starts early. As a response to demands for a “bigger bang for the buck,” government agencies under pressure from the neoliberal capitalist business power structure have shifted to an assembly line mentality for education by creating a “quality assurance plan” based on passing tests. Teaching is relegated to filling students with facts and behaviors that are both measurable and meet the needs for compliant, non-creative worker bees.

In 1999, the school board in Howard County, Maryland, removed two criteria from its official policy on determining high school students’ grades. You know that neither of them were standardized tests. No, they were, and I quote, “originality” and “initiative.” This school board decided that those two qualities of a student’s work were no longer important. They decided this because, they said, it is “impossible” to measure how hard a student tries or if a student’s work is original. What they were really saying, and what way too many school boards are now saying, is this: If it can’t be measured easily, then we can’t care about it, we can’t teach it, and we certainly can’t determine if a kid has learned it. The solution? Take originality and initiative completely out of your educational goals and just teach to the test.
– via www.ascd.org

Legislation like No Child Left Behind, education vouchers, and charter schools have changed the face of education in the U.S. and increased the profits of those investing in the new education system. While there are many “side benefits” for the privileged, there are also many opportunities for profit. A recent report of charter school fraud confirmed the hundreds of millions of dollars that found its way into the pockets of investors. MSN once hosted a discussion of the best investments and charter schools topped the list.

Perhaps guided by the old adage that you have to spend money to make money, the champions of education “reform” have poured billions into the effort to privatize and profit from America’s schools. Those funds are used on multiple fronts: launching charter schools, underwriting the political campaigns of politicians, and of course, investing in media to propagate the free-market privatization vision.
– via MSN

Some Things Never Change

One thing that hasn’t changed in education is the discriminatory practices of the privileged. For generations, racial inequality has persisted as has many other -isms. The principle of excluding the Other is just disguised as a “more efficient use of resources” a.k.a. “make the elites richer.”

Among the many finding of the 36-page report: More than 500 charter schools suspended black students at a rate that was at least 10 percentage points higher than the rate for white students. And moreover, 1,093 charter schools suspended students with disabilities at a rate that was 10 or more percentage points higher than for students without disabilities.

The most alarming finding, the research points out, is that 235 charter schools suspended more than 50 percent of their enrolled students with disabilities.
– via US News & World Report

Conclusion

When a society shifts its value system, two things are certain. First, other things will eventually change or become obsolete. Because the shift is so gradual, it often goes unnoticed by many and gradually becomes the norm. Second, and most important, the dominant group will always benefit. Thus, changing a value system requires strategy, patience, persistence, and power. It also requires “smoke and mirrors” tactics, giving the appearance of one thing while doing something different. People are so busy working and playing, they take little time — or have little time — to research the real issues. Instead, they look for quick and accessible highlights. Many have a false sense of trust for the news media, finding the source that best meets their dispositions and feeding off of it, never checking the validity of what’s being told to the masses. Those who do sound the danger alert are viewed as conspiracy theorists or negative thinkers. Just remember this when you encounter the fence…

“Cows have a sense of freedom…until they encounter the fence around the pasture.”
-Me

Finally!! It’s Out in the Open for All to See!!

Finally!! It’s Out in the Open for All to See!!

Finally, we have some honesty in business. The real “way it is” is now public!

“I’m working for you now — I’m not working for Trump,” he told supporters at a rally in this key Western swing state Monday.
– via CNN

This is not about Trump; this is about the way that this country operates, about a system that is designed to keep most of its population’s nose to the grindstone, serving the 1% of the country so that they can continue to legally and according to the mantra of neoliberal capitalism, “ethically” operate.

In his first day on the campaign trail after The New York Times reported that he had reported losing nearly $1 billion in a single year in tax filings, and could legally have gone as many as 18 years without paying income taxes afterward, Trump confronted the issue head-on. He said that in business, “it’s my job to minimize the overall tax burden.”
– via CNN

Truth spoken: it is the business of powerful people to stay in power. Nothing hidden here! “Legal losses” do not equate to real losses as anyone in business could affirm.

Bottom Line to this Brief Post

Since the founding of this country, the rule has been the same. If you have wealth (regardless of how you got it), you can find ways to keep it and even make it grow because you also have the power to manipulate legislation in your favor. Further, you can create a normalized model that promotes a myth of equal opportunity founded on an ethical system that favors profit over everything, including peoples’ welfare. This system is so entrenched in the U.S. that those in that upper echelon consider manipulating the system as something to be proud of.

“I have legally used the tax laws to my benefit … Honestly, I have brilliantly used those laws,” Trump said.
– via CNN

Nuf said…

 

School choice and vouchers: Who are the winners?

School choice and vouchers: Who are the winners?

With recent attempts to eliminate public schools in lieu of charter schools, this article gives a different, often unseen agenda surrounding school voucher programs.

Introduction

This is the official mission of the United States Department of Education: “. . . to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the Nation” (2002). Approximately $650 billion dollars were spent this past year, most of it at the State level, to fulfill this mission. Having an educated citizenry is essential to maintaining a democratic society and this has always been achieved through a public education system. However, in recent years this system has come under attack by those who would like to see it dismembered and replaced by market-style private schools. School vouchers have been promoted as the vehicle that will allow parents to choose their children’s school.

What are school vouchers?

The voucher system has its roots in mid-20th century Georgia when a white supremacist legislator, Roy Harris, as a means to avoid dealing with school integration, wanted to end the state education system in favor of education grants (Rawls, 2001). Later economist Milton Friedman proposed the use of vouchers as a means of applying the market economy to the public school system (Weisenberger, 2001) with the purpose of creating a competitive market in which “. . . ‘good’ schools would thrive and ‘bad’ schools would fail” (Rawls, 2001, p. 365). Following on the heels of the 1982 United States Department of Education report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, with its questionable methodology and findings (Lowe, 2002), Congress passed the Excellence in Education Act (“Excellence in Education Act,” 1991) that rekindled the fires of education reform. Something was thought to be wrong with American schools and school vouchers were promoted as the solution. Rawls (2001) describes the school voucher as “. . . a publicly funded certificate given to parents that is applied to tuition at any school approved for such purposes by the state” (p. 364).

Why Vouchers?

One of the main reasons for the recurrence of school vouchers is the perceived inability of public schools to provide an adequate education. First, what obligation does the public school system have to the public and to its students? Rawls (2001) points out that states fund public education with the idea of self-preservation:

“’. . . it is the government means of protecting the state from the consequences of an ignorant and incompetent citizenship’” (p. 367)

For this reason, education is compulsory and the essential curriculum (the “3 Rs”) is mandated by the state and must be taught by public and private schools alike. The basic function of public education is to produce literate students capable of effectively participating in the processes of a democratic society. According to Foster (1991), there is another vital function performed by public education. He refers to “performative memory” (p. 243) and its importance in creating the imagined community of a nation. Schools teach a history that has been reworked and refined to provide a national past—“. . . the continuous history of the imagined community unfolding through ‘homogeneous, empty time’ into an equally infinite past and future” (p. 241). Public schools have the role of reinforcing this past by developing patriotism. Children begin learning the Pledge of Allegiance in kindergarten. The school year is replete with national holidays such as former president’s birthdays and Memorial Day that build and strengthen national solidarity.

These ceremonies put the living members of the national community in touch with the dead, merging both into a community that, rendered as immemorial and immortal, acquires a reality apart from its ritual performance (Foster, 1991, p. 243)

Foster makes the relationship between the state and public education perfectly clear in this statement:

“The educational apparatus of schooling and textbooks through which versions of the national past are authorized and disseminated is largely a state creation.” (p. 243). It becomes clear that in addition to producing literate citizens, national education is also an attempt to create a national culture (Hirst & Thompson, 1995).

Who Really Benefits From A School Voucher System?

It is easy to see how vouchers might be seen as the answer to a desire for the best education possible. However, what would happen if legislation were passed to provide all parents with education vouchers for their children? This question is best answered by first deciding who will benefit from such a program.

In most cases, a voucher will only provide funding equal to the amount allotted by the state for public education of a child (Lowe, 2002). Private school tuition is generally much higher and parents must therefore find a way to provide the additional costs. There are many families who barely have enough income to provide for the necessities of living while many others have even less.

Most of these people are immediately excluded from a voucher program. Even if these families could find the additional money, private schools would select only those students who fit the socioeconomic and academic profile that will perpetuate the “picture of success”. The end of this analysis means that those who would most likely benefit from a voucher system would be middle class families with the resources to pay the additional costs and those families who have already placed their children in private schools.

The reality is that the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” widens further in the presence of a voucher system (Latham, 1998).

Who then would really benefit from a voucher system? As discussed, most of the socioeconomically disadvantaged will be automatically excluded from participation. Another relatively unseen effect of a voucher system is that as funding flows to private schools, it flows away from public schools, increasing the existing imbalance of resources between urban and suburban schools (“Racial justice 101,” 2000). The impact is greatest on the poor since most live in urban settings where funding is already insufficient. Rather than providing advantages to these disadvantaged children, they become even more disadvantaged (Whitty, 1997), losing access to other services such as healthcare and meals that the school can no longer afford to offer (MacLeod, 1987; McLaren & Gutierrez, 1997; Rawls, 2001). Doerr (2001) makes it clear what public schools need:

“. . . more adequate and more equitably distributed funding, repair, replacement of worn-out buildings, smaller classes and therefore more teachers (about fifteen children) in the lower grades, and more attractive teacher compensation.” (p. 40).

This becomes even less likely to happen with voucher systems. The answer to the question then becomes an all too familiar one. Those middle class families with children in private schools would obviously benefit financially from a voucher system. However, the wealthy stand to gain the most because they would recoup a part of the money paid for private school tuition. There is a tax advantage for the wealthy: “A reduced tax rate would provide the well-to-do with a voucher for part of their tuition for private schools” (Lowe, 2002). The elite also profit from their investments in constructing additional private schools to accommodate new students.

Is Private Really Better?

Many write about the inadequacy of the public school system while private school access is perceived as the answer to providing “quality” education. However, there is conflicting data as to the “superior quality” of a private school education. Greene (2001), commenting about the Cleveland voucher program says that there are “. . . statistically significant benefits from school choice” (p. 21). However, when referring to the same voucher program, the American Teacher (“Voucher program fails to deliver,” 2001) contradicts this statement,

“. . . vouchers are not providing the academic advantages that supporters have promised and may even be splintering student populations along racial lines” (p. 14).

So it seems that neither public nor private schools are meeting parents’ and students’ expectations.

A Subtler Agenda

There is another dimension to the problems in education that spans public and private schools alike. It is best stated by McLaren and Gutierrez (1997):

What is essential for educators. . . is to dismantle the discourses of power and privilege and social practices that have epistemically mutated into a new and terrifying form of xenophobic nationalism in which there is but one universal subject of history – the white, Anglo, heterosexual male of bourgeois privilege. (p. 214)

Private schools simply represent one vehicle to strengthen this “power and privilege” that McLaren and Gutierrez recognize. Coons (2001) contends that public schools do not exist anyway since “. . . ‘public’ identifies institutions that are accessible to all citizens. . . and. . . access to any particular state school today remains a privilege attached to residence.” (p. 7).

Conclusion

Substantive changes must be made in education, changes that modify the social and cultural perspectives of those at the policy-making level. “What is needed in school settings, then, is radical shifts in what counts as knowledge and what counts as learning—shifts that allow disruptive and critical forms of pedagogy to emerge.” (McLaren & Gutierrez, 1997, p. 207). The significant problem has nothing to do with whether schools are public or private but rather with the views held by society as a whole clearly stated here:

“. . . the present conditions in our schools are as much a part of moral indifference as they are a result of the current economic flows within late capitalism.” (McLaren & Gutierrez, 1997, p. 194).

It is sometimes easy to yield to what appears to be the “inevitability of the situation” but as McChesney (1999) emphasizes when he quotes Noam Chomsky, “. . . if you act like there is no possibility of change for the better, you guarantee that there will be no change for the better.” (p. 5-6).

References

Barber, B. (1996). Introduction. In B. Barber (Ed.), Jihad vs. mcworld (pp. 3-20). New York: Ballantine Books.
Bryan, L., & Farrell, D. (1996). Global capital revolution. In L. Bryan & D. Farrell (Eds.), Market unbound: Unleashing global capitalism (pp. 1-13). New York: Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Chubb, J., & Moe, T. (1990). An institutional perspective on schools. In J. Chubb & T. Moe (Eds.), Politics, markets, and American schools (pp. 26-68). Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.
Coons, J. E. (2001, Aug.). Rescuing school choice from its friends. adaptation of address; cover story. America, 185, 7-10.
Doerr, E. r. (2001, Sept./Oct.). Schools, vouchers, and the American public (book review). The Humanist, 61, 39-40.
Excellence in Education Act. (1991). (102nd Congress ed.).
Fitzsimons, P. (2000). Changing conceptions of globalization: Changing conceptions of education. Educational Theory, 50(4), 505-520.
Foster, R. (1991). Making national culture in the global ecumene. Annual Review of Anthropology, 20, 235-260.
Greene, J. P. (2001, Summer). The surprising consensus on school choice. The Public Interest, 19-35.
Hirst, P., & Thompson, G. (1995). Globalization and the future of the nation state. Education and Society, 24(3), 408-442.
Kelly, P. (1999). The geographies and politics of globalization. Progress in human geography, 23(3), 379-400.
Latham, A. S. (1998, Oct.). School vouchers: much debate, little research. Educational Leadership, 56, 82-83.
Lowe, B. (2002). The Hollow Promise of School Vouchers. Rethinking Schools Online. Retrieved March 5, 2002, from the World Wide Web: http://www.rethinkingschools.org/SpecPub/sos/soshollo.htm
MacLeod, J. (1987). Ain’t no makin’ it: Leveled aspirations in a low-income neighborhood. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, Inc.
Martin, P. (2000). The moral case for globalization. In F. Lechner & J. Boli (Eds.), The globalization reader (pp. 12-13). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers Inc.
McChesney, R. W. (1999). Noam Chomsky and the Struggle Against Neoliberalism. Global Policy Forum. Retrieved February 27, 2002, from the World Wide Web: http://www.globalpolicy.org/globaliz/econ/chmsky99.htm
McLaren, P., & Gutierrez, K. (1997). Global politics and local antagonisms: Research and practice as dissent and possibility. In P. McLaren (Ed.), Revolutionary multiculturalist pedagogies of dissent for the new millenium (pp. 192-222). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Ohmae, K. (2000). The end of the nation state. In F. Lechner & J. Boli (Eds.), The globalization reader (pp. 207-211). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers Inc.
Racial justice 101. (2000, June). The Nation, 270, 3-4.
Rawls, A. S. s. a. (2001, Winter). Eliminating options through choice: another look at private school vouchers. Emory Law Journal, 50, 363-395.
Treanor, P. (2001). Neoliberalism. InterNLnet. Retrieved March 2, 2002, from the World Wide Web: http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/neoliberalism.html
U.S. Department of Education. (2002). The Federal Role In Education. Retrieved March 1, 2002, from the World Wide Web: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/fedrole.html
Voucher program fails to deliver. (2001, Nov.). American Teacher, 86, 14.
Weisenberger, A. (2001, July). Cleveland program could lead to definitive Supreme Court precedent on school vouchers. Journal of Law & Education, 30, 564-570.
Whitty, G. (1997). Creating quasi-markets in education. In M. Apple (Ed.), Review of research in education (Vol. 22, pp. 3-47). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Some Things Never Change

Some Things Never Change

As I begin this post, I recall reading an excerpt from Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, about the Chicago meat packing plants. It was a vivid description of the horrible immigrant working conditions, cases where disease and sickness were the price paid by workers for the sake of profit. One particular line comes to mind. After reading about the way that pork was pickled and then packaged, the final act was to take the leavings from the drain and use it in some meat product. “…everything but the squeal from the pigs was used.” To me, this is a historic summary of the path human greed has taken, from those blatant, graphic images to a subtler form that hides behind the same epithet: “business ethics.”

For it was the custom, as they found, whenever meat was so spoiled that it could not be used for anything else, either to can it or else to chop it up into sausage. With what had been told them by Jonas, who had worked in the pickle rooms, they could now study the whole of the spoiled-meat industry on the inside, and read a new and grim meaning into that old Packingtown jest–that they use everything of the pig except the squeal.
– via www.online-literature.com

We trip over ourselves in social discussions and in the news media to avoid point the finger at those who constitute the real problem with society today. It is done so slickly that our normalized selves seldom recognize that we have done it. Comments referring to how sad it is to see so many new health issues, so many families financially struggling to live their lives, increasing numbers of violent crimes, and so on. Underneath is a neoliberal capitalistic system that seeks to use everything and everyone to get “all but the squeal out of the pig.” Done under the guise of efficiency and reduced cost, those defining the terms, “efficient” and “cost” rarely, if ever, include humanity in those definitions. Instead, “efficient” refers to getting the job done as quickly and easily as possible regardless of how it impacts the people doing the job or using the product while “cost” is strictly about profit; who cares about the cost in terms of health, economic conditions, or morality. This is the same way of doing business made more efficient (ha!). Hell, the U.S. government gave smallpox-ridden blankets to Native American children and during the Spanish American war, companies sold the military boots with cardboard soles (Zinn, Peoples’ History of the U.S.)! Slavery ended not from a bloody civil war but from the decision of slaveowners that it was too costly and could be more efficiently implemented by ending physical bondage and replace it with a social slavery. Complicit companies could then be free from the responsibilities of providing food, housing, and medical care while continuing to squeeze more work out of the same people and paying them a pittance.
The same things are done but more covertly and prefaced with an elaborate scheme to set the stage for more raping and pillaging of human rights. Ralph Nader’s notion of “planned obsolescence,” companies selling appliances that were built to fail after a period of time to spur consumerism has evolved into a way of life.

But the American consumer has now been conditioned to accept a reality that would have been characterized as absurd before. We accept that the feature-laden smartphone we buy today MUST be replaced in six months when the new models arrive. We are surprised when anything we purchase lasts for any length of time beyond an ever-diminishing norm. We are trained to believe that society requires us to discard and reinvent ourselves with every wind that blows from the world of fashion. We are constantly bombarded with the clear message that the answer to everything, from the world economy to our self-esteem, will be fixed if we simply…..consume.
– via seattlerecycles

Almost every product was built to fail; quality was a term used to sell the crap. In contrast, a few companies maintained true quality but at a much higher price, unaffordable by many and cherished by those who either wanted quality or just wanted the social status that came from owning those brands. This did not go unnoticed by companies who began to market a separate product line advertised as “better” or “more durable” than the other line that cost less. While a bit better, the profit margin was much greater by relabeling still-inferior products as improved versions. For example, we started with plain batteries that led to alkaline batteries, touted as the ultimate battery that lasted several times longer than the plain ones. However, along came the extra strong alkaline followed by another, each with a higher price than the previous “end-all” product; who knows where that will end…
America’s love affair with the automobile is another excellent example of how pseudo quality has been used to increase profit. Not many decades ago, owning a Cadillac or Mercedes was out of the majority’s financial reach but now, there are affordable models for a much larger percentage of families. Other more common brands now sell a higher cost product that supposedly is better quality and new brands have emerged that simulate the appearance of more expensive ones. A side effect of this race to increase profit while reducing real quality has been the evolution of mechanics to parts people whose main job is to con as many owners as possible into having multiple components replaced to fix a simple problem. This is exacerbated by the engineers who design not for quality but for profit so that when one piece breaks, it requires the removal or replacement of several others. It’s all about ethical business operation a.k.a. get everything out of the pig, if possible, including the squeal.

A Dangerous Philosophy

Most people would say that business is business and profit is the name of the game. This may be true with “widgets” a.k.a. physical products but when that same mindset is used in the realm of human services such as education and healthcare, people begin to suffer and quality becomes a thing of the past, replaced with pseudo quality. In more cases, we are buying more boots with cardboard soles while being told that they are high quality. It is as if we are killing our own children for the sake of profit…

Hey, “Toy” Manufacturers!!!

Hey, “Toy” Manufacturers!!!

A Violent World

We live in a world where we see violence every day, in the news, on television, and sometimes, in the streets. Video games provide children with an opportunity to act out violence through their characters and life seems to become less valuable. Manufacturers using “business ethics” as an excuse, manufacture all kinds of weapons look-alikes and sell them to kids who, as all kids do, play out their imaginations.

When I was a kid, we played with toy guns (says a lot about a normalized society!), because toy guns did not look like the ones that are considered “toys” today. The ones we used were much smaller than real guns and they looked like toys; isn’t that the point of toys?

The Real World

Now we go into the real world where violence often ends in injury and death. Police are tasked with trying to maintain law and order yet little seems to be done to help them. Are there cases of excessive violence? Yes. Are there cases where race stereotypes end in a victim’s death? Yes. Are there justified cases of shooting deaths in the line of duty? Of course. Only a person impervious to the reality of a society based on -isms could ignore it.

The point of this brief post is to point out the lack of social responsibility for the sake of profit that continues to be exhibited by toy manufacturers who sell weapons replicas that anyone can buy and give to kids, replicas that anyone under pressure in a dark alley would not be able to distinguish from the real thing. If you have never had a real weapon pointed at your face, you cannot appreciate the state of a police officer having one pointed in her or his face.

MANUFACTURERS: GROW A PAIR AND TAKE SOME RESPONSIBILITY!!!

Perpetuating the Norm

Perpetuating the Norm

In the last few weeks, several professional athletes have followed the lead of Colin Kapernick to protest the disproportionately high number of Black folks who have been brutalized by police. They have knelt during the national anthem as a means of showing their concern and urgency to address the problem. Even President Obama supports their right to express disagreement. However, there is another aspect of these rightful displays that is rearing its ugly head: the power of capitalism to suppress any behavior that challenges the normalized view of what it means to be an American.
In an article today, Brandon Marshall decided to join the rightful protest,

After the game, he told reporters he had knelt because “I’m against social injustice. I’m not against the military, the police or America at all. I’m against social injustice.”
– via the Guardian

The response was not unexpected as the system always works to preserve itself:

The Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall has lost an endorsement from a sponsor after following Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, in refusing to stand for the national anthem before an NFL game.
Air Academy Federal Credit Union president and chief executive Glenn Strebe said the company respected “Brandon’s right of expression” but would no longer employ him as a spokesman.
– via the Guardian

Follow the Money But Look Deeper Into the Imagined Nation

It is a common practice by companies in the U.S. to go with the money flow. We call it business ethics, focusing on profit above all else. Brandon Marshall’s act did not follow the quintessence of business ethics because it would cost the credit union investments from those who see his acts as “unpatriotic” and “un-American.” It is much more than a business decision, it is an act by the system to preserve the normalized, “imagined” nation described by Benedict Anderson in his book, “Imagined Communities”:

I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community-and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion….

Anderson saw this normalization as a positive way of creating solidarity but that concept has devolved into a means to suppress the very thing to which it aspired. In the same article, Roger Goodell commented about Colin Kaepernick’s rightful act, and conforming to the normalized model, he implies that Kaepernick’s action was unpatriotic:

“On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that. I think it’s important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement, and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals.”
– via the Guardian

The impact of Brandon Marshall’s experience can already be seen:

Von Miller, the Broncos’ Super Bowl MVP linebacker, said after Thursday’s game that though he was “not going to kneel for the national anthem” he felt “it should be a change”.
– via the Guardian

There are many in this country who “feel things should be changed” but do not voice those thoughts, perhaps because of fear of financial or status loss. How many others are thinking the same way as Von Miller?

This post is not meant to be a detailed examination of the reasons why a normalized model exists in this country, who benefits from it, and all the ways it is perpetuated. Instead, it is meant to stimulate thinking about why it is so important to have an imaginary picture of what it means to be “American.”

“Cows have a sense of freedom…until they encounter the fence around the pasture.” Me

Who’s The Stupid One Here?

Who’s The Stupid One Here?

The Setting

I cannot count the number of times that I have shopped in a store and noticed something that would really improve customer satisfaction. Often, I find myself going to opposite ends of a store for things that naturally go together. I was landscaping the yard a while ago and needed some pieces of rebar to hold the landscaping timbers in place. The timbers were on one end of the store and the rebar on the far opposite end so when I did my trek and was checking out, I mentioned to the clerk that she/he might suggest keeping some at both ends of the store. Now, I have done this several times and each time, I either get a nod or a comment that it is a good idea but nothing ever changes. I have done this many times about many different products but to this day, nothing has ever been changed.

Who is the stupid one?

Okay, the question here is who is the stupid one? Let’s go through the possibilities. First, the store clerk most likely has no vested interest in the future of the store and is only working there as a means to pay the bills while looking for something better i.e. less effort for more money, so why should he/she give a rat’s ass where things are located? Really, they will get paid the same regardless of how much I must walk the aisles or spend an extra half hour trying to find something that is illogically located (crackers always get me…it’s a bread product, right, so why is it halfway across the store from the bread?). So rather than actually take an active interest in something that takes 8 or more hours of each day, they just plod forward, thinking about what the plans for the night will be. I must say that occasionally, I find someone who really gives a shit and when I do, I make it a point to add a compliment (It’s so fucking rare that I can afford the time. Ha!Okay, let’s assume the clerk did make the suggestion and gave the rationale for it. Who else could be the culprit? The “manager” and that is in quotes because I seriously doubt that the majority of those with that title have any clue what it means or how to do it. I recall one store that I seldom frequent because the manager is an idiot. I honestly believe that I could go into that store, lay down on the floor in an aisle as if I was injured or dead, and it would take an hour or so for someone to stop and check. The sales people avoid eye contact and God forbid that they should ask if a customer needs help finding something. Yes, that is the fault of the sales staff but who is supposed to be managing them? The fucking manager!! In this particular store, I have noticed him sitting on his fat ass in his office, not just for a few minutes but the whole time I was in the store. Get off your ass and check what’s happening in your store, dumbass!! So, back to the main theme here. The manager didn’t really pay attention to the clerk’s suggestion because he/she either doesn’t know how to manage or again, does not want to possibly add any extra work to the day.So, there are two possible candidates for the “stupid” award but there is one more, maybe not so obvious, but definitely a candidate. Me! Yes, I said it. You may be wondering how that can be since I was the one to make the suggestion but think about it for a minute. Didn’t I say that I had done this numerous times with no success? If I want to find the dumbass here, all I need to do is look in the mirror! Will I ever learn or continue to piss in the wind?? How stupid of me to think that businesses really give a shit about these things! Oh, yes, maybe a few do and by the way, those are not always the ones that make the most money but they are the ones that people like the most. The rest of them are only tolerated.

The New Economy

This is the state of the new economy whether we like it or not. So I will from this point forward stop wasting my breath trying to improve a business that is designed not to give a flying fuck about anything but profit. How did this happen? Well, that’s for a future post.