"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

2017 Medley #18: DeVos Doubles Down

Accountability, Discrimination, Budget Cuts, Church-State Entanglement

We all knew that Betsy DeVos was going to be a problem for public education. She didn't hide her disdain for the common folk who sent their children to America's public schools. She didn't hide the fact that she wanted to privatize all the education in the U.S.

So it was no surprise that last week she presented the Trump Administration's plans to support privatization and destroy public education.

[emphasis in any of the quoted material below is mine]


ACCOUNTABILITY: FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS ONLY

DeVos Still Anti-Accountability

The bludgeon used by "reformers" against public schools has been accountability based on test scores. As we have learned in Indiana, that accountability is only meant for public schools. Schools accepting vouchers or charters can get their grades changed, can get loan forgiveness when they collapse, can continue to receive state funding even after having "failed," and can even choose their own students.

Accountability is the weapon used to hurt public education, and then claim that public schools are failing. As far as DeVos is concerned, no such accountability is needed for schools run privately.
...What we know is what we've known since the days that DeVos beat back attempts at accountability measures in Michigan-- she opposes anything that might in any way tie the hands of the Right Kind of People, the people who deserve to set policy and create schools and profit from all of it.

I can understand how liberals are bothered by this policy. What I don't quite understand is where the conservatives are. Where are all the people who built up the education reform wave in the first place with rallying calls for teacher accountability and school accountability and don't just trustingly throw money at schools and where the hell are our tax dollars going, anyway? Oh wait-- they are off in the corner, counting up all the money they aren't going to pay in taxes under the GOP plan.

As my college ed prof told us in the seventies, the accountability needle keeps swinging back and forth-- but this time it has gone so far in the accountability direction that it has come out the other side in a place so unaccountable that the federal Secretary of Education cannot imagine a situation in which she would deny federal dollars to any voucher school, ever, for any reason. This isn't just throwing money at schools-- it's lighting the money on fire and throwing it off a cliff. This is wrapping all the money around a big club that will be used to beat anybody who's not white and wealthy and healthy.


Betsy DeVos Continues Her Push For Private School Vouchers

One of the problems with "school choice" programs (aside from the fact that the "choice" is with the school, not the parents) is the lack of public oversight. Millions of taxpayer dollars are funneled into private, religious, and charter schools, which are given fewer restrictions for how money is being used. Nearly every day there's another scandal in which someone misappropriates or misuses funds meant for educating children.
...We have a responsibility to provide great public schools to every kid in America. Instead of strongly investing in public schools where 90 percent of kids go, Trump’s budget cuts billions of dollars from key programs and would divert already scarce funding to private schools.

Members of Congress pressed DeVos on the fact that these private schools, even though they get taxpayer funds through vouchers, discriminate against students and are unaccountable to the public. Although she tried to evade their questions, it was clear that she has no interest in ensuring meaningful oversight of schools or barring discrimination in a federal voucher program.


PRIVATIZATION: DISCRIMINATION ALLOWED

Betsy DeVos Wants to Take Money From Poor Kids and Give it to Schools That Could Discriminate Against Them

Private schools get a big boost with the Trump/DeVos education plan. At the same time the message for public schools is, "Let them eat cake."
...the real priority of this administration isn’t pragmatic; it’s ideological – and it’s a particularly ugly ideology our federal government has historically been focused on dismantling.

More specifically, Trump’s education budget cuts $9.2 billion (13.5 percent) of federal outlays to public schools, and eliminates or phases-out twenty-two programs.

Both Republicans and Democrats expressed concerns with cuts in federal support for afterschool programs, Special Olympics, arts education, gifted and talented students, teacher training, class size reduction, career and technical education, and programs targeted at helping disadvantaged students and veterans successfully complete high school and enter higher education.


TARGETING THE NEEDIEST

10 Serious Issues Facing Public School Students: Where’s Betsy?

DeVos couldn't seem to care any less about serious problems facing America's school children. Problems like poverty and segregation simply don't matter. In fact, the cuts in the proposed budget seem designed to target the most needy children in our schools...the poor, special education, and students who don't speak English.
Betsy DeVos wastes precious time on her choice initiative, ignoring the most serious problems facing our young people in public schools. At a hearing the other day, she pushed many of these problems onto the states.

But I would argue that these difficulties still require thoughtful attention and research from an education secretary who should be engaged.

Instead of working to find solutions to such problems, she’s too busy planning how to destroy public education with her unproven choice ideology.

Children in crisis need help now! They can’t wait.

Is There a Point to All This Cruelty?
Betsy DeVos does not know anything about public education except that she doesn't believe in it as a concept. Free public education is one of the unquestioned triumphs of the American experiment, but it's a disposable commodity to a know-nothing fanatic who married into a vast fortune and dedicated a lot of it to wrecking public education.


THE PROBLEM WITH CHURCH-STATE ENTANGLEMENT

Annie Waldman: Betsy DeVos on Creationism and Intelligent Design

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has been a watchdog for the constitutional separation of church and State since 1947. As such, they understand that "school choice" was a tool originally utilized to support racial segregation. That hasn't changed. "School choice" programs in America are contributing to the increase in segregation. One might even think that was (one of) the goals from the beginning.

Americans United has also been on watch to prevent the entanglement of churches with the state. They have worked tirelessly to keep religious practices and content out of public schools. Betsy DeVos has a history of supporting the entanglement of church and state...as well as her obvious preference for parochial education.

[Full disclosure: I have been a member of Americans United for more than three decades.]
“DeVos and her family have poured millions of dollars into groups that champion intelligent design, the doctrine that the complexity of biological life can best be explained by the existence of a creator rather than by Darwinian evolution. Within this movement, “critical thinking” has become a code phrase to justify teaching of intelligent design.

“Candi Cushman, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, described DeVos’ nomination as a positive development for communities that want to include intelligent design in their school curricula. Both the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation and Betsy DeVos’ mother’s foundation have donated to Focus on the Family, which has promoted intelligent design.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

DeVos is Still Ignorant

Last week, when she unveiled her education plan and budget, Betsy DeVos said some things which only served to prove her ignorance of America's public education system and reinforce the belief that she is completely unqualified for the job which she blatantly purchased from Senate Republicans.

OUR CURRENT SYSTEM

Betsy DeVos Compares School Choice Critics To ‘Flat-Earthers’

DeVos said,
The defenders of our current system have been regularly resistant to any meaningful change. In resisting, these flat Earthers have chilled creativity and stopped American kids from competing at the highest levels.
For someone who has the job of overseeing the nation's public schools DeVos has no understanding of what our current system is.

In fact, DeVos's critics are very much against the "current system." The current system is actually one based on an overuse and misuse of testing which is manipulated in order to damage public schools and divert tax dollars to private and parochial schools.

For decades we've been holding our public schools hostage to standardized tests which measure a student's family income more accurately than their achievement. We've used the tests in invalid ways to judge school systems, schools, and teachers as well as children. The results have been used to close schools, force out experienced teachers, and demean public education as "failing." On the contrary, our public schools are generally excellent and successful despite the roadblocks being thrown up by policy makers, billionaires, and legislators.

She claims that critics are the one who have "stopped American kids from competing at the highest levels." Instead, it's a system that allows children from wealthy families to do just that – compete at the highest level. Our students who come from schools with poverty rates of less than ten percent achieve at levels higher than any other students in the world. The problem is that those who denounce public schools as failures have worked to segregate our children based on educational classification, economic status, and race. DeVos and the proposed federal budget only make the "current system" more inequitable

ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL TESTING

Education Department Faces Deep Cuts; DeVos Faces Tough Questions
"The bottom line is we believe that parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children's schooling and education decisions," DeVos said. "Too many children today are trapped in schools that don't work for them. We have to do something different than continuing a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach."
The one-size-fits-all approach she claims her critics favor is actually what her critics oppose. The fight against so-called "education reform" has been a fight against the system that judges all children based on a single standardized test. It's been a fight against a those who use tests to denounce public schools, and as an excuse to divert needed funds to privatization schemes like charter schools and vouchers.

If Secretary DeVos knew anything about public schools she would know that teachers work every day to differentiate programs for individual students. Most public school teachers understand that every child is different...that children need to learn based on where they are and how much they can accomplish, which is different for every child. But Betsy DeVos doesn't know this about public schools. She never attended public schools. She never worked in public schools. She never sent her children to public schools. She is completely ignorant of the excellent work that public schools and their teachers do every day.

Those children who are "trapped in schools that don't work for them" are mostly poor children of color, forced into underfunded schools in neighborhoods which have been economically abandoned by oligarchs like DeVos who work to cut taxes for the rich, and divert much needed resources from public schools to private and religious schools.

In addition, parents aren't the ones who have choices once they leave the public school system. That option belongs to the charter school or voucher accepting school which, more often than not, rejects the hardest and most expensive to educate children. The people best equipped to make choices for children's education are trained educational professionals with input from parents, working in well staffed and well resourced public schools.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 Medley #17: Privatization

Privatization: Choice, Bipartisanship, Testing

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

Why Care About Other People’s Children

Since charter and voucher schools' test scores are no better than those of public schools, the privatizers had to change their argument for diverting public money into private and parochial pockets. The reason, they say, is for "parents to have choices." Most refuse to allow "choice" when it comes to opting out of a state's standardized test, but that's another story.

The idea behind "school choice" is that it should be up to a parent where his or her child goes to school and there are reasons other than achievement for choosing one school over another. This is a legitimate reason, except it's not up to the government to use public funds to pay for private educational choices.

No other public service provides "vouchers" to divert money to privatization. We can't choose to get a voucher for money paid to public libraries in order to shop at a commercial book store.

We can't choose to get a voucher for money paid to municipal park departments in order to fund membership in a country club.

We don't get vouchers to help pay for our cars instead of supporting local public transportation.

We don't receive vouchers in any other area, and we shouldn't receive them for education either. Public tax money is collected for the public good...for the community...for all of us.

Is the drive for "choice" in public education just another symptom of America's growing selfishness? It's framed in a selfish way focusing on "what's best for me no matter what it does to the community." I understand the desire to want the best for our own children, and I can't blame parents for trying to find a good "fit" for their child, but every citizen has a stake in the children of their community.

In a 1992 speech nominating Bill Clinton for President, Mario Cuomo said,,
They are not my children, perhaps. Perhaps they are not your children, either...They are our children.

And we should love them. We should, we should love them. That's compassion.

But there's common sense at work here as well, because even if we were hard enough to choose not to love them, we would still need them to be sound and productive, because they are the nation's future.
The selfishness of Americans will come back to haunt us when neglected, undereducated, undercared for children grow into adults. Pennsylvania teacher-blogger, Steven Singer, echoes Cuomo...
That’s why some folks champion privatized education – they only care about their own children. In effect, when a parent sends their children to a charter or voucher school, they are telling the community that they don’t care what happens to any one else’s kids so long as their kids are properly cared for and educated.

...So why should we care about other people’s children?

Because it’s better for ours. Because doing so makes us better people. Because all children are ends in themselves. Because they’re beautiful, unique sparks of light in a dark universe.


THE BIPARTISAN DESTRUCTION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Don’t Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats.

Thank you, Diane Ravitch.

In this post Ravitch says what I (and many others) have been saying for a long time. Democrats, at least nationally, are not friends of public education. They might be slightly better than Republicans because they haven't been pushing as hard for vouchers, but support for education "reform" in the U.S. is definitely bipartisan.

The trend towards blaming teachers, closing schools, encouraging charters, and misusing and overusing tests, was part of the education plan of President Bill Clinton...took shape with the passage of NCLB supported by Edward Kennedy and George Miller...and doubled down with Barack Obama's Race to the Top...all Democrats. There's a myth that Democrats love public schools, partly because they nearly always get endorsements from teachers unions, but, while they love teachers unions, they don't actually love the teachers or the public schools they teach in.

Obama, for example: In 2007, candidate Barack Obama told the National Education Association Representative Assembly,
...Don't label a school as failing one day, and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test. We know that's not true...
President Obama's Race to the Top, unfortunately, did just the opposite of what the candidate said – it literally labeled schools as "failing" and then, by encouraging states to replace the bottom 5% of schools with charters, walked away from them. Yet, the NEA endorsed him. In the same speech, he endorsed merit pay for teachers. Candidate Obama said that he was against using an "arbitrary" test to link teacher pay to performance, and then President Obama, in Race to the Top, did exactly that.

Ravitch tells the Democrats to give up their "privatizing" ways and return to support for public schools, public school teachers, and the children of America.
Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades. Some did it because they fell for the myths of “accountability” and “choice” as magic bullets for better schools. Some did it because “choice” has centrist appeal. Others sold out public schools for campaign contributions from the charter industry and its Wall Street patrons. Whatever the motivations, the upshot is clear: The Democratic Party has lost its way on public education. In a very real sense, Democrats paved the way for DeVos and her plans to privatize the school system.

Two Privatizers: Democratic Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, with
Republican Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

PRIVATIZATION: TESTING

National and Urban NAEP Results: Neighborhood Public Schools 23, Charters 4

For years privatizers have decried the low test scores of American students as proof that our public schools are "failing." The fact that it's not true hasn't seemed to matter.

Here's a study showing that charter schools don't do as well as real neighborhood public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the NAEP test. What will the "reformers" say to that? Perhaps they will claim that standardized tests don't tell the whole story when it comes to student learning...I have my irony meter ready for that one.

But, here in Indiana the change in tone has been obvious. We are no longer privatizing public schools just to save poor children from "failing" public schools. Now it's about "choice" for "choice's" sake...just because.
In conclusion, the school-level national and large city NAEP results drawn from the Data Explorer are informative for the public discourse as charter schools are presently being presented as a superior alternative to the public school system. These descriptive school-level results from the NAEP Data Explorer suggest that the relationship between charter schools and improved student performance is not being realized nationally and in large cities. As a result, the present conversations promoting outstanding overall success of charter schools clearly need to be reconsidered and reframed.


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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pence, Preschool, and Privatization

A tweet from NEA...
REJECTING FEDERAL DOLLARS

Mike Pence, as Indiana's governor, rejected an $80 million preschool grant from the federal government. He said it was because he didn't want "federal strings attached," but my guess is that there were two different reasons.

First, the grant was supported by Glenda Ritz, the Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction who insulted Pence by getting more votes than he did in 2012. Pence, with help from the State Board of Education and the Republican wing of the General Assembly, spent four years doing everything he could to prevent her from doing her job.

Second, the federal preschool dollars didn't help Pence with his plan to privatize and religionize public education. Instead it just benefited children.


THE PENCE PLAN CONTINUES

This past year, while the V.P. was moving into his West Wing office, the Indiana General Assembly approved a preschool plan which links preschool money to vouchers, thereby expanding what is already the nation's most expansive voucher plan. Pence would be proud.

But vouchers weren't all the ALEC supported privatizers in the Indiana General Assembly were after. They also included $1 million for a "virtual preschool" plan.

Because sitting in front of a computer screen for 15 minutes a day is the same as participating in a quality preschool program.


WHAT THE SCIENCE SAYS

So Indiana has increased privatized preschool as part of the latest voucher expansion, and has made tech companies happy by paying for a "virtual preschool." But the research discussed in an article from KQED News referred to public preschools, which children actually attended.

The article, “What the Science Says About How Preschool Benefits Children,” stated that students with public preschool experience, are more successful in Kindergarten. They don't need vouchers. They don't need 15 minutes a day of screen time. They just need high quality preschool programs like those Mike Pence stalled by rejecting 80 million free dollars.

They listed four key findings...
  • That while all kids benefit from preschool, poor and disadvantaged kids often make the most gains...
  • Children who are dual-language learners “show relatively large benefits from pre-K education” — both in their English-language proficiency and in other academic skills...
  • And yet, the researchers said, that doesn’t mean preschool should necessarily be targeted toward poor or disadvantaged kids. “Part of what may render a pre-K classroom advantageous” for a poor student or a child learning English, “is the value of being immersed among a diverse array of classmates.”
  • Not all preschool programs are alike. Features that may lead to success include: “a well implemented, evidence-based curriculum,” and an emphasis on the quality and continuous training of pre-K teachers. There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done, the study concludes, “to generate more complete and reliable evidence on effectiveness factors.”
There was no mention of a 15 minute "virtual" preschool.


MR. PENCE GOES TO WASHINGTON

Don't think for a minute that the Trump/DeVos plan for privatization of America's public schools has nothing to do with Mike Pence. DeVos helped fund Indiana's privatization movement. There's little doubt that the Trump/DeVos goal of privatizing America's public education system will be modeled on the success Pence, and his predecessor Mitch Daniels, had in Indiana.

Effectiveness doesn't matter...the only thing they care about is funneling public tax dollars into corporate and religious pockets under the guise of "choice." They don't support public education. They don't care to provide educational equity for the shameful number of children in America who live in poverty. They don't care about them. They just care about diverting tax dollars. They just care about increasing private school attendance.

The same for preschool. They're not interested in supporting the research which suggests that poor children benefit the most from preschool. They're more interested in the money they can get by redirecting students from public schools into parochial and private schools.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

2017 Medley #16: Privatization – Leaving Some Students Behind

Special Needs Students, Segregation,
U.S. DOE and DeVos,
The "Free Market," Ben Franklin

SOME STUDENTS LEFT BEHIND

Indiana's School Choice Program Often Underserves Special Needs Students

Last week NPR posted, The Promise and Peril of School Vouchers, an article about the success of the privatization movement in Indiana. The quote below is taken from the radio broadcast on the same topic and focuses specifically on the impact that privatization in Indiana has had on students with special needs.

I would have liked to see a further breakdown of the specific categories of special needs services handled by public and private schools. For example, students with Language or speech impairments who need speech therapy, are much less expensive to teach than students who have traumatic brain injuries or cognitive disorders. General education students who need speech and language services and don't qualify for other categories of eligibility for special services, don't need special equipment or extra classroom personnel other than a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP). In addition, SLPs from the public schools – at least in the district I taught in – provide services for students in parochial schools (paid for with federal dollars). [NOTE: This is not to say that students who need speech and language services don't deserve extra help. The point is that certain categories of special education services are more expensive than others.] Who exactly are the 6.5 percent of students in the Fort Wayne district who are using vouchers and qualify for special services?

Private and parochial schools are not covered under the special education law and do not have to provide services, and students with special needs give up their rights when they enroll in a private school.
...NPR did look at the records. More than 15 percent of Fort Wayne's public school students are considered special education. The average special ed rate at private voucher schools used by Fort Wayne kids is just 6.5 percent. In fact, NPR ran the numbers for every district in the state, and Fort Wayne is the rule, not the exception.

Seventeen percent of public students in Indianapolis received special education. In voucher schools used by Indianapolis students, it's just 7 percent. It's the same story in Evansville and Gary and just about everywhere else. This phenomenon came up earlier this year in a heated Senate hearing. Here's Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, whose son has cerebral palsy.
Many of us see this as the potential for turning our public schools into warehouses for the most challenging kids with disabilities or other kinds of particular issues.


CHOICE – THE NEW SEGREGATION

School Choice: Designed To Fail

How do we define "good" schools? What does a "failing" school mean? These definitions, which can be traced to the economic status of the parents of children within a school, are being used to sort and segregate students. When "choice" advocates tell parents that they should have the right to "choose the best school for their children" they rarely tell the parents that private schools get to choose who they will accept and some charter schools manipulate entrance systems to favor the most motivated, the highest scoring, and the best behaved students.

With more and more tax money being diverted from public schools to vouchers and charters we're witnessing the return to the "separate and unequal" schools of the last century. The idea of universal education as a "public good" is being lost in a competitive battle for tax dollars.
By rigging the system, by cruel attrition, by statistical sleight of hand, the choice movement is simply sifting kids through a similar sorter, leaving the false impression that the plutocrat-funded, heavily-hyped charter schools are “good,” and the increasingly deprived district schools are “less good.”


CONTINUED DAMAGE FROM THE U.S. DOE

Trump’s first full education budget: Deep cuts to public school programs in pursuit of school choice

For the last several decades the destruction of public education has been a bipartisan effort with Democrats – at least at the federal level – working to divert money from public schools into the corporate maw of the charter school industry. Republicans have supported the expansion of the charter industry as well, but have as their real goal, the total privatization of education across the nation through vouchers and "educational savings accounts."

The premise behind school privatization is competition, and the idea that "the market" will eventually eliminate "bad" or "failing" schools because patrons will "shop with their feet." According to the "market-based" orthodoxy, only good schools will survive.

An erroneous assumption is that schools with low test scores are "failing" and schools with high test scores are "good." As I wrote earlier this year in The Myth of America's Failing Public Schools, America's schools aren't failing. Instead, it is American society which has failed the more than 1/5th of our children who live in poverty.

A new crisis is looming for public education in the U.S. The Trump-DeVos budget will further decimate needed funding for the students who need it the most.
Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.


School Privatization in the Age of Betsy DeVos: Where Are We in Mid-May?
...this year with DeVos as their cheerleader, far right legislators across the states have been aggressively promoting school privatization with bills for new vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts or bills to expand existing privatization schemes. As usual, legislators are being assisted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a membership organization that pairs member state legislators with corporate and think tank lobbyists to write model bills that can be adapted to any state and introduced across the statehouses by ALEC members.

The Network for Public Education has made available short explanations of all three school privatization schemes: vouchers, tutition tax credits here and here, and education savings accounts.


EDUCATION IS NOT A BUSINESS

The Free Market Does Not Work for Education

In this post from 2016, Peter Greene explains why the supporters of "market-based" education are wrong. The free market will not be able to provide universal education – not to students with expensive needs...not to students who live in rural areas...not to students who live in low population areas.
The free market will never work for a national education system. Never. Never ever.

A business operating in a free market will only stay in business as long as it is economically viable to do so. And it will never be economically viable to provide a service to every single customer in the country.

All business models, either explicitly or implicitly, include decisions about which customers will not be served, which customers will be rejected, because in that model, those customers will be detrimental to the economic viability of the business. McDonald's could decide to court people who like upscale filet mignons, but the kitchen equipment and training would cost a whole bunch of money that would not bring a corresponding increase in revenue, so they don't do it...

...Special ed students are too expensive for their business model. When we see across the nation that charters largely avoid students with severe special needs, or English language learners, this is not because the operators of those charters are evil racist SWSN haters. It's because it's harder to come up with a viable business model that includes those high-cost students. Likewise, you find fewer charters in rural and small town areas for the same reason you find fewer McDonald's in the desert-- the business model is commonly to set up shop where you have the largest customer pool to fish in.

Of course, you can game this system a little by creating government incentives. Uncle Sugar can say, "We'll give you a tax break or a subsidy if you will go serve this customer base that it ordinarily wouldn't make economic/business sense for you to serve." But now it's not a free market any more, is it?


BEN FRANKLIN ON PUBLIC FUNDING FOR RELIGION

Ben Franklin in a letter to Richard Price on Oct. 9, 1780

Most voucher accepting schools in Indiana are religious. The church-state entanglement which ought to be obvious to nearly everyone, has been ignored by the Indiana Supreme Court. Besides the entanglement, Indiana requires very little accountability from private schools for their acceptance of public dollars in the form of vouchers. Accountability, apparently, is only for public schools.

In 1780, Ben Franklin, writing to his friend Richard Price, suggested that a church which couldn't support itself without government support didn't deserve to survive. The same could be said of church sponsored schools. According to Franklin, God should support the church, not the "civil power." Substitute "parochial school" for the word "Religion" in the following quote. Let God support religious schools, not the taxpayers.
"When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig'd to call for the help of the Civil Power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
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Monday, May 15, 2017

Instead of Equity

Inequity, both economic and racial, in the U.S. is so common, so embedded in our society that no one in America should be surprised to hear what John Green has to say about life expectancy in the video below.

In the doobly doo, below his video, Green links to a study – Inequalities in Life Expectancy Among US Counties, 1980 to 2014, wherein we learn...
Much of the variation in life expectancy among [U.S.] counties can be explained by a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors.
So, life expectancies, like test scores, are correlated to ZIP codes...


SCHOOL IS ABOUT FINDING YOUR HAPPINESS...

In contrast to the inequity in the U.S., Finland is one of the most equitable societies on the planet. This equity is reflected in Finland's education system. In his 2015 documentary, Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore asked the Finnish Minister of Education, "If you don't have standardized tests here in Finland, how do you know which schools are the best?" She responded...
The neighborhood school is the best school. It is not different than the school which can be, for example, situated in the town center, because all the schools in Finland, they are equal.
Equity.

In Finland, the richest families send their children to the same schools as the poorest families. That means, as Moore says,
...the rich parents have to make sure that the public schools are great. And by making the rich kids go to school with everyone else, they grow up with those other kids as friends. And when they become wealthy adults, they have to think twice before they screw them over.
Equity.

Equity in the nation yields equity in education. Equity in education yields high achievement and reinforces equity in the nation. If we were actually interested in improving American education we would do what the Finns have done...and, as Moore said elsewhere in the documentary, the Finnish education system is based on ideas from the United States. We just have to do what we already know.


But, whine the contrarians, "Finland is not the U.S. We can't just import their whole education system. They're a smaller country...not so diverse!"

True.

In order to do what Finland has done we would have to support and invest in our children, eliminate the inequity in our society, and...
  • end the racism inherent in America. We would have to heal the damage done by Jim Crow and the nation's slave past. We can't build an educationally equitable nation until we have a racially equitable nation.
  • stop dismantling our public schools. When a school system, riddled with poverty, inevitably fails, the solution in the United States is to privatize...to close the schools and replace them with charter schools...instead of working to change the environment and support the schools. Charter schools, however, aren't the cure to low achievement.
See also...
  • quit trying to fund two or three parallel school systems. We need one public school system for all Americans, poor and wealthy, black and white. As long as there are multiple school systems divided and ranked by economic and racial privilege, there will be "haves" and "have nots." There will be inequity.

...INSTEAD WE BLAME TEACHERS

A school is not a factory; teaching is a process

Instead of increasing educational equity we point fingers and try to find someone to blame. "Reformers" love to blame teachers.

Instead of giving teachers the professional responsibility of teaching, politicians and policy makers make decisions for public schools. They decide what should be taught and how it should be taught. Then, when their ignorant and inappropriate interference doesn't result in higher test scores, they blame the teachers.
On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers' hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.


...INSTEAD WE LOWER STANDARDS FOR TEACHERS

In Arizona, teachers can now be hired with absolutely no training in how to teach

We pass legislation damaging the teaching profession. Then, when fewer young people want to become teachers and a teacher shortage is wreaking havoc on public schools, we claim that "we have to get more 'good people' into the classroom," so we remove licensing restrictions and let anyone teach...
New legislation signed into law in Arizona by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will allow teachers to be hired with no formal teaching training, as long as they have five years of experience in fields “relevant” to the subject they are teaching. What’s “relevant” isn’t clear.

The Arizona law is part of a disturbing trend nationwide to allow teachers without certification or even any teacher preparation to be hired and put immediately to work in the classroom in large part to help close persistent teacher shortages. It plays into a misconception that anyone can teach if they know a particular subject and that it is not really necessary to first learn about curriculum, classroom management and instruction.

ALEC: ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION ACT

ALEC is a voice for lowering standards for teaching. They say, "certification requirements prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession." That's true, and that's as it should be.

They say, "comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals." What is their definition of "improved teacher quality?" What is their definition of "qualified?"

Teachers need to understand and know their subject area, of course, but they also need to understand educational methods, theory, and style (whatever that means) which ALEC so disrespectfully dismisses.

Why should teachers know anything about education methods, learning theory, classroom management, or child development? If you're ALEC, the answer is "they don't."
Teacher quality is crucial to the improvement of instruction and student performance. However, certification requirements that correspond to state-approved education programs in most states prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession. To obtain an education degree, students must often complete requirements in educational methods, theory, and style rather than in-depth study in a chosen subject area. Comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals. States should enact alternative teacher certification programs to prepare persons with subject area expertise and life experience to become teachers through a demonstration of competency and a comprehensive mentoring program.

Paul Lauter: Why Do Dentists Need to be Licensed?

In response to ALEC...
I think we should propose doing away with dental licenses. After all, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a piece of string and a door knob.

...INSTEAD WE OBSESS OVER TESTING

An advertisement from Facebook.

Is this what we ought to be focusing on...better test-prep? In America the purpose of education has become the tests.


Don’t Use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments for Accountability

I'm afraid we have completely lost any valid use of tests in the U.S. Now there's a move to use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments (KRAs) in order to grade schools and children.

Tests should only be used for the purpose for which they were developed. Any other use is educational malpractice.
...there are also several tempting ways to misuse the results. The Ounce delves into three potential misuses. First, the results should not be used to keep children from entering kindergarten. Not only were these assessments not designed for this purpose, but researchers have cautioned against this practice as it could be harmful to children’s learning.

Another misuse of KRA results is for school or program accountability. According to the Ounce report, some states have begun using these results to hold early learning providers accountable. One example the report highlights is Florida. While Florida has since made changes, the Florida State Board of Education previously used the results from its Kindergarten Readiness Screener to determine how well a state Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) provider prepared 4-year-olds for kindergarten...

...Finally, the Ounce report raised issues with using KRA results for pre-K and kindergarten teacher evaluation. Once again, the assessments are not designed for this purpose...[emphasis added]

INSTEAD...

...of making excuses and blaming school systems, schools, teachers, and students, policy makers should take responsibility for low achievement caused by the nation's shamefully high rate of child poverty.

...of wasting tax dollars on a second (charters) and third (vouchers) set of schools of dubious quality, trying to duplicate our already neglected public schools, we should invest in our children, in our future, and fully fund a single, free, equitable, public school system.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

2017 Medley #15

Poverty, Lead, The Onion

Chapter 10: The Family Begins to Starve
"Slowly but surely, everybody in the house began to starve.

"...And every day, Charlie Bucket grew thinner and thinner. His face became frighteningly white and pinched. The skin was drawn so tightly over the cheeks that you could see the shapes of the bones underneath. It seemed doubtful whether he could go on much longer like this without becoming dangerously ill.

"And now, very calmly, with that curious wisdom that seems to come so often to small children in times of hardship, he began to make little changes here and there in some of the things that he did, so as to save his strength. In the mornings, he left the house ten minutes earlier so that he could walk slowly to school, without ever having to run. He sat quietly in the classroom during break, resting himself, while the others rushed outdoors and threw snowballs and wrestled in the snow. Everything he did now, he did slowly and carefully, to prevent exhaustion..."
In fiction, children who are suffering find ways to compensate. In Roald Dahl's popular novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie Bucket slows down and somehow manages to survive on a daily diet of a piece of potato and a slice of bread. In real life, the results of poverty have lifelong implications and there is no Magical Chocolate Maker to shower riches on needy children. In real life, the only magic that will help is the magic of economic equity, infrastructure investment, and hard work.

In his 2009 paper, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, David C. Berliner describes out-of-school-factors affecting school achievement which are often permanent and life-altering.
(1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics.
Each of these factors has an impact on the ability of children to achieve in school. Education can't heal the effects of poverty alone.


POVERTY

Education Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can?

Instead of blaming teachers, students, families, schools, and school systems for low achievement and "failing" schools, policy makers need to take responsibility for the central cause of low achievement – poverty and its accompanying damage. Until that happens all the policies dealing with charter schools, vouchers, test and punish, and higher standards will be a waste of time and money. They will do nothing to improve the education of our children.
One of the consequences of making education so central to social policy has been that we’ve ended up taking the pressure off of the state for the kinds of policies that would be more effective at addressing poverty and economic inequality. Instead we’re asking education to do things it can’t possibly do. The result has been increasing support for the kinds of market-oriented policies that make inequality worse.

If we really want to address issues of inequality and economic insecurity, there are a lot of other policies that we have to pursue besides or at least in addition to education policies, and that part of the debate has been totally lost. Raising the minimum wage, or providing a guaranteed income, which the last time we talked seriously about that was in the late 1960’s, increasing workers’ bargaining power, making tax policies more progressive—things like that are going to be much more effective at addressing inequality and economic security than education policies.

School Lunch Quality and Academic Performance

School lunches (and breakfasts) can have an impact on children's school performance. Children who are hungry will have trouble learning no matter who the teacher is, how great the curriculum, or how much money is spent on technology. The sooner we learn that, the better off our children will be.
Students at schools that contract with a healthy school lunch vendor score higher on CA state achievement tests, with larger test score increases for students who are eligible for reduced price or free school lunches.


LEAD

Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School and Juvenile Detention Records

Berliner's out-of-school-factor number four, environmental pollutants, can destroy a child's potential before he or she even begins school, and lead is a leading environmental problem for families living in poverty.

Eliminating lead in the environment will go a long way to increasing achievement, decreasing violence, and keeping children in school so they can learn. Punishing children because adults have subjected them to a poisonous environment is cruel and abusive. The only cure for lead poisoning is prevention. The only way to prevent lead poisoning is to invest more money in lead eradication.
Using a unique dataset linking preschool blood lead levels (BLLs), birth, school, and detention data for 120,000 children born 1990-2004 in Rhode Island, we estimate the impact of lead on behavior: school suspensions and juvenile detention. We develop two instrumental variables approaches to deal with potential confounding from omitted variables and measurement error in lead. The first leverages the fact that we have multiple noisy measures for each child. The second exploits very local, within neighborhood, variation in lead exposure that derives from road proximity and the de-leading of gasoline. Both methods indicate that OLS considerably understates the negative effects of lead, suggesting that measurement error is more important than bias from omitted variables. A one-unit increase in lead increased the probability of suspension from school by 6.4-9.3 percent and the probability of detention by 27-74 percent, though the latter applies only to boys.
See also Freddie Gray’s life a study on the effects of lead paint on poor blacks

THE ONION – SATIRE

The Onion is a satire site, but this article from 2011 has enough truth to make it a valuable study on the challenges schools face. Money, properly invested, is the answer. The only people who deny that are those who can afford to send their well nourished, healthy, and well cared for children to elite private schools.

Budget Mix-Up Provides Nation's Schools With Enough Money To Properly Educate Students
"Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to right the situation and discipline whoever is responsible," said House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), expressing remorse for the error. "I want to apologize to the American people. The last thing we wanted was for schools to upgrade their technology and lower student-to-teacher ratios in hopes of raising a generation of well-educated, ambitious, and skilled young Americans."

"That's the type of irresponsible misspending that I've been focused on eliminating for my entire political career," Ryan added.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Day: Read Aloud

Charlotte's Web has been a favorite read aloud of third grade teachers for decades...probably since 1952, the year it was published.

I first heard the book when my third grade teacher, Mrs. Gilbert (Philip Rogers School in Chicago) read it out loud during the 1956-57 school year. It was the first novel I remember hearing a teacher read aloud in school, and it had a significant effect on me and my future.
  • I remembered it when I was a student in the education department at IPFW.
  • I remembered it when I became a father and began reading aloud to my children.
  • I remembered it once I started teaching and began reading aloud to my own classes.
  • I remembered it when I discovered the Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease.
  • I still remember it as I read aloud to a friend's third grade class when I volunteer.
For Teacher Appreciation Day, 2017, I'm reposting an entry, with some minor changes, from 2013 about reading aloud.

In appreciation of three of my favorite teachers, and the three who most influenced my growth as a teacher – Mrs. Gilbert, Dr. Lowell Madden, and Jim Trelease – who taught me that reading aloud is still the most important part of reading instruction...


July 1, 2013

JIM TRELEASE

In 2008 I wrote that Jim Trelease was going to retire. This year, just about a week ago in fact, he released the seventh and final edition of The Read Aloud Handbook. The first Penguin edition of his book was published in 1982, but I was already familiar with The Read Aloud Handbook three years before it was published by Penguin.

In 1979 I ordered a pamphlet on reading aloud from the Weekly Reader Book Club. I had earned my teaching certificate before the 1976-77 school year and had been reading to my third graders every day...just like Dr. Madden (Lowell E. Madden, education professor at Indiana/Purdue Fort Wayne) taught me to do.

Dr. Madden impressed upon us the importance of reading aloud...and for the 19 years (out of 35) I spent in a general education classroom it was my favorite part of the day. I read to all my classes...kindergarten through 6th grade...Where the Wild Things Are and Junie B. Jones through The Island of the Blue Dolphins. I can't remember ever missing a day. It was my belief -- and it still is -- that reading aloud to children is the most important thing that a teacher (or parent) can do to help their child(ren) succeed in reading.

The Read Aloud Handbook, Weekly Reader edition, was my first introduction to Jim Trelease and from that point on, reading aloud, which was already an important part of my reading instruction time, became even more important.
The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children...It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades. [emphasis added]
That quote from Becoming a Nation of Readers published some years later (1985) reinforced my desire and my determination to read aloud to my students every day.

As new editions of The Read Aloud Handbook were published I would buy them. When friends and family members had new babies, I would give copies of the book as gifts. When Jim Trelease visited Fort Wayne, which he did several times, I'd go hear him speak. I even started gathering a few autographs from the author.

[I took the Weekly Reader edition of the Read Aloud Handbook to one of his lectures. I stood in line for an autograph after the presentation and was delighted at his response. He acted like he just had a visit from a long lost friend.]


WHY READ ALOUD

According to the newest edition reading aloud helps a person become proficient at reading in two ways...
  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; the more you know, the smarter you grow. [citation here]
Why does it work? Because having someone read to you is fun...humans like fun...they want that fun to continue so they are motivated to learn to do it on their own.

Trelease talks about reading achievement in the US compared to the rest of the world. We have, he says, some of the best nine-year old readers in the world, second only to Finland. By the time American kids are 14 however, they drop to eighth place. Would reading aloud to older students help?


READING ALOUD TO OLDER STUDENTS

Most primary teachers read to their students every or almost every day. As the children get older, however, the frequency of teacher read aloud diminishes. Part of this is because the curriculum is so much heavier in upper grades, and part of it is, of course, the pervasive and time consuming influence of testing and test-prep. By the time students are 14, barely half of their reading/English/literature teachers read to them...and almost no teachers of other subjects do.

An article titled Why Reading Aloud to Older Children Is Valuable argues that reading aloud to older students is still valuable.
“Research indicates that motivation, interest, and engagement are often enhanced when teachers read aloud to middle school students,” wrote research authors Lettie K. Albright and Mary Ariail. Teachers surveyed for the study cited modeling as their number-one reason for reading aloud.
The article also refers to Jim Trelease...
For Trelease, the power of shared words is a big reason to keep on reading aloud after children are able to read for themselves. Students might interject questions, comfortably wading into complicated or difficult subjects because they are happening to the characters in the story, and not to themselves. “Why do you think so many children’s stories have orphans as characters? Because every child either worries or fantasizes about being orphaned.”

While Trelease maintained that read-alouds can happen through any device (“Look at all the truckers listening to books on CD,” he said), and Lahey reads from a physical paper book, dogeared and scrawled with all her notes in the margins, both emphasized how students recall read-alouds with fond memories. Trelease recently received a letter from a retired teacher who reconnected online with former students some 30 years later. She wanted to know the one thing her former students remembered about her class.

“Without fail, it was the books she read to them.”

THEY REMEMBER

A few years before I retired I met a couple of my former third graders at a school function. They were in their early 20s, out of college, starting on their own careers. I asked them if they remembered being in third grade. They said the same thing that most of us say when we return to our elementary schools after becoming adults..."The school looks a lot smaller now." Then one of them added...
I remember you were the one who read all those books to us...
...and he proceeded to name off half a dozen of his favorites. Over the years I've gotten notes from former students telling me that they were reading a book to their children or their class which I had read to them when they were in my class. Reading aloud makes an impression...a positive one.

Wouldn't it be nice if teachers at all grades could eliminate some of the test prep and spend more time reading to their students?

Wouldn't it be nice if all parents read aloud to their children? (Parent hint: Start when your baby is an infant...day one. Don't stop till they leave home for good.)

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Listen to This (Random Quotes) #6

REMINDER

John Kuhn is a strong voice in the fight for public schools. He understands that public education is not just for parents and children who participate in the public school system...public education exists to enrich and preserve our nation, just like public parks, museums, roads, street lights, and water systems.

This is one of my favorite quotes...



POVERTY

Can Schools Cure Poverty?

In order to heal the plague of poverty in America, schools would have to be equipped with medical facilities, counseling services, social workers, and psychologists, as well as all the necessities of a fully funded school like libraries staffed with trained librarians, specialists for students with special needs, specialists in the arts and physical education, nutritionists providing healthy food offerings, administrators with experience in the classroom and in management, and highly trained professional educators in every classroom.

Schools can't be expected to solve a problem which politicians and policy makers have either failed or ignored for centuries. Even with all the amenities listed in the above paragraph (and any others I might have forgotten), schools would find it difficult to heal the national illness of poverty. Poverty has roots in racism, class structure, economics, a financially ruinous health care system, and a ubiquitous drug culture. Schools can't repair this societal affliction alone.

Until we, as a people, develop the skill and desire to provide a decent standard of living to all our citizens, poverty will continue to be a major cause of school failure.

From Diane Ravitch
Poverty should be addressed by reducing poverty. No matter how high the standards, no matter how many tests, no matter how swell the curriculum is, those are not cures for homelessness, joblessness, and lack of access to decent medical care. This realization explains why I changed my mind about the best way to reform schools. It is not by turning schools over to the free market but by seeing them as part of a web of social supports for families and children. [emphasis added]


WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Teacher: I love my job, but the chaos of urban school reform is wearing me out

I recently took part in a discussion with my Indiana State Senator. This man is not a friend to public education and regularly promotes bills which
  • divert funds from public to private and privately run schools
  • support sectarian practices in public schools such as school sponsored prayer or anti-science legislation
  • support abusive or excessive testing practices
  • encourage the de-professionalization of teaching
During the discussion (which was with other educators), the Senator stated that, "The Senate is suffering from education reform fatigue."

His point, which I agreed with, was that education reform in Indiana needs to pause and reflect on the changes made. I would, of course, take it a step further and eliminate the damage that "reform" has caused in this state.

In any case, he indicated that members of his branch of the government were tired of focusing on ways to hurt public schools. He blamed the excesses on the Republicans in the State House of Representatives.

My response to him was something along the lines of, "Imagine what it must be like for teachers."

I wish I had said, "If it's tiring for you in the Senate to dump all these damaging changes on public education, imagine what it must be like to be a teacher at the end of the dumping."

From Ryan Heisinger in The Answer Sheet
Lasting relationships with teachers and peers aren’t forged over just a few months. An amazing arts program takes years to build. It takes a long time to develop a wide variety of student-led extracurricular opportunities. School pride comes when students feel they are a part of a community in which they’re able to express themselves and show off their talents. But in a marketplace in which schools compete for test scores, narrowed priorities and school closures erode the stable soil teachers and administrators need to put roots down and grow an enduring culture of success and school community and pride.


TEACHING CAREER

Teacher photographed completing lesson plans while in labor

Every teacher knows the drill...it's sometimes harder to miss a day at school than to go to school when you're sick. I remember getting up at 4 AM to get to school and make up lesson plans in order to go back home and collapse into the bed waiting for the pain of some illness to pass.

Naturally, I've never been pregnant, but I'm not surprised that a teacher would do this...

From Jennifer Pope of Burleson, Texas
"Really, I'm no different than any teacher that I know," Pope told ABC News. "They would've done the same thing. We think about our students like our own children. I'm grateful [people] are celebrating all teachers and working moms. Being a working mom is hard, but it's also fulfilling. I can't imagine not being a teacher."


CHOICE

Testing Opt Out: Parent Wants Conference; School Calls Police *Just in Case*

The "choice" crowd of "reformers" are adamant that parents know best and should have the tax-funded choice to send their children to any school they want – religious, corporate, or otherwise. They claim that it's only fair that parents have "choice" in everything having to do with their children...

EXCEPT...testing.

No one should get to "choose" to opt out of state mandated testing.

How many ways can you spell hypocrisy?

From Mercedes Schneider
One of the great contradictions within corporate ed reform is the promoting of a “parental choice” that stops short of the parent’s choice to opt his or her children out of federal- and state-mandated standardized testing.


TESTING: INAPPROPRIATE USES

Anger doesn’t describe it

From rlratto at Opine I Will
Anger doesn’t describe my feelings. Our society is being driven over a cliff by an extreme ideology that will destroy our nation. When we look the other way when children are being forced to fulfill an agenda, when we allow school children to go hungry, when we refuse to provide health care, when we demonize a segment of our population, we are heading for a fall.


AHCA

Despicable and Inexcusable

Sheila Kennedy

Every Republican who voted for this abomination must be held accountable

Paul Waldman

The quote below is from Paul Waldman. He's quoted in the excellent post by Sheila Kennedy. I've included both links.
Perhaps this bill will never become law, and its harm may be averted. But that would not mitigate the moral responsibility of those who supported it. Members of Congress vote on a lot of inconsequential bills and bills that have a small impact on limited areas of American life. But this is one of the most critical moments in recent American political history. The Republican health-care bill is an act of monstrous cruelty. It should stain those who supported it to the end of their days.


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Thursday, May 4, 2017

How Much Free Speech is Too Much

Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech...

The constitutional guarantee to free speech is in the news. On university campuses across the country protestors are lining up to do battle against university sponsored, or university-based group sponsored speakers. Does a speaker have the right to be heard no matter what he or she espouses? The following is a partial list (which I compiled by searching the internet for who has been prevented from speaking at universities) of people who have been "disinvited" to speak at universities, disrupted in their attempt to speak, or prevented from speaking by the threat of protest.
  • anti-feminists
  • anti-muslims
  • anti-semites
  • conservatives
  • mysogynists
  • liberals
  • online celebrity "trolls"
  • police commissioners
  • policy makers
  • politicians
  • pro-Israel supporters
  • pundits
  • racists
  • speakers with violent and sexually explicit language
  • supporters of police
  • transgenders
  • trans- and homophobes

Articles have been written in favor of and against the trend...

No matter what your position on allowing offensive (and everyone in the list above is offensive to someone) speech at a university, or anywhere else, there are certain things about the First Amendment protection of free speech that should be remembered.

FREE SPEECH HAS CONSEQUENCES

You can, in most situations, express your opinion about almost anything, but by doing so you open yourself up to criticism. Criticism is also protected free speech.

For example, if you don't like what I write on this blog, you can, in the comments, dispute what I have written and tell me I'm wrong. Your comment is the consequence of my self-expression and you have the right to criticize me. (On the other hand, I also have the right to delete your comment if it violates my rules or I find it offensive. That's the consequence of your speech in my comments. Click here to see commenting rules).

GOVERNMENT PROTECTED SPEECH

The government protects free speech. Private citizens or groups do not. If I own a venue and invite speakers to visit on occasion, I can choose who I want to invite. If I invite Bernie Sanders, but not Mitch McConnell, I have not limited the free speech of Senator McConnell. I simply haven't invited him to my venue. He is free to find his own venue in which to speak. If I do invite Senator McConnell, and then change my mind, I might be considered an ill-mannered jerk, but I'm still within my rights, and I have still not restricted the Senator's free speech.

When UC-Berkeley decided to postpone Ann Coulter's speech (Coulter herself is the one who chose to cancel), they didn't restrict her free speech, even though you might consider them jerks for changing the date of the invitation. Ms. Coulter still has the option of writing books and op-eds, speaking at rallies, talking on television, radio and podcasts. In fact, she did just that in the article linked in this paragraph. She has every right to rail against those who prevented her from speaking. But she still has freedom of speech.

When universities cancel speeches because of the threat of protest, they have the right to do so. This is not limiting the canceled speaker's free speech. Every one of those speakers is free to find other locations to speak, or write their opinions, or find broadcasts on which to express themselves.

We can disagree with a group or university who prevents or denies someone the opportunity to speak at a particular location, however, that someone still has the option of arguing against the denial on their own.

[The preceding argument is definitely true when the university is privately owned, but does this change if the university is publicly funded like UC-Berkeley? If so, does that mean that anyone who wants to can demand to speak at a university? See the article by the ACLU, below.]


SPEECH IS NOT 100% FREE

In other words, free speech, under the U.S. Constitution is not 100% guaranteed. There are restrictions and consequences. See here, here, and here for discussions of ways that free speech can be denied in the U.S. Here are a few...

1. First, we've already discussed...
  • You do not have a right to free speech in a forum owned by someone else. They can kick you out. They don't have to allow you to speak.
2. Those folks who incite to riot in order to prevent someone from speaking need to be careful...
  • It's illegal to incite others to criminal acts or to riot. In Brandenburg v. Ohio the U.S. Supreme Court set the standard for what is permissible. This includes so-called "fighting words" which would also incite violence.
3. The following description is the basis of a settled suit against the defunct Trump University.
  • You are not allowed to make false or fraudulent claims in the course of business.
4. Keep this in mind if you want to keep your job...
  • You are not guaranteed free speech in your workplace, except union organization, which is protected by law.
5. This applies to all students.
  • Students have restricted rights to free speech in school.
6. Is "knock the crap out of them" a violent threat?
  • You don't have the right to threaten someone with violence.

COMPLICATIONS

The American Civil Liberties Union states that objectionable speech may not be restricted at government-financed campuses.

Academic freedom (and freedom of speech) protects the rights of a person who makes objectionable statements, but does it also protect the right of the governing body of an academic institution to change its mind? Once someone is invited is there no option but to let them speak? What about someone who is not invited? May they "invite" themselves?

Furthermore, in the case of Ann Coulter, as in many other of the disinvited speakers' cases, the university itself didn't invite her. She was invited by the Berkeley College Republicans, a university supported, but private organization (Note: The Berkeley College Republicans are the people who also invited Milo Yiannopoulos, who was also "disinvited" by the university).

Hate Speech on Campus
Many universities, under pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

That's the wrong response, well-meaning or not. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Speech codes adopted by government-financed state colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. And the ACLU believes that all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom is a bedrock of education in a free society.
The American Library Association fights censorship every day...but are they against censoring everything?

Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q and A
What Are The Most Frequently Censored Materials?

Throughout history, books have been challenged for many reasons, including political content, sexual expression, or language offensive to some people’s racial, cultural, or ethnic background, gender or sexuality, or political or religious beliefs. Materials considered heretical, blasphemous, seditious, obscene or inappropriate for children have often been censored.

Since the dawn of recorded human expression, people have been burned at the stake, forced to drink poison, crucified, ostracized and vilified for what they wrote and believed.

Aren’t There Some Kinds Of Expression That Really Should Be Censored?

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that there are certain narrow categories of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment: obscenity, child pornography, defamation, and “fighting words,” or speech that incites immediate and imminent lawless action. The government is also allowed to enforce secrecy of some information when it is considered essential to national security, like troop movements in time of war, classified information about defense, etc.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Should objectionable speech be allowed on public campuses?

What's the difference between objectionable speech and hate speech?

Is name calling protected speech?

What about name calling in the form of racial or ethnic slurs?


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