Tuesday, August 2, 2016

"Have You No Sense of Decency?"

Posted By on Tue, Aug 2, 2016 at 4:30 PM

  • Joseph Welch
During Senator Joe McCarthy's communist witch hunts in the 1950s, he decided to go after the U.S. Army. The army hired Joseph Welch as its lawyer to make its case during what is known as the Army-McCarthy hearings. When McCarthy claimed one of Welch's attorneys was connected to a Communist group, Welch responded, "Have you no sense of decency?"

Welch's question could be asked just as appropriately of Donald Trump. His recent attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star parents whose son, Army Captain Humayun Khan, died in Iraq, contain a ghostly echo of McCarthy's attacks on the military. The echo grows louder when we hear more of what Welch said to McCarthy.
"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. . . . Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?"
Change "Senator" to "Trump," change "this lad" to "the Khan family," and the words fit Trump like a glove.

Another possible echo: Welch's statement marked the beginning of the end of Joe McCarthy's popularity and his power. We're at a moment when the same thing may be happening to Donald Trump.

Actually, I wouldn't bother asking Trump, "Have you no sense of decency?" No point. He'd just blather on about how he's probably the most decent man you've ever met, how his decency built buildings and hired workers and helped make America great.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Pearson Education: Live By Common Core Profits . . .

Posted By on Mon, Aug 1, 2016 at 4:15 PM

  • Courtesy of
Pearson Education, part of Pearson PLC, one of the world's largest education companies, bet big on Common Core testing as well as textbooks and other materials tailored to boost scores on Common Core tests. Right now, the British company is in a bit of trouble.
The stock price for Pearson PLC, the world’s largest education business, dropped precipitously Friday after its announcement of a 7 percent decline in underlying sales to about $2.5 billion for the first half of 2016.

Reuters reported that the company’s shares were the biggest losers on Britain’s Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 for the day. Analysts were disappointed that the decline was 2 percent larger than had been anticipated.
Another article hints at the reason for the company's revenue loss.
Political and economic problems have combined to derail the group's plans to sell text books and mark exams in the United States, and the group blamed a drop in revenue from exam marking in the U.S. and Britain, its top two markets, for its disappointing first-half performance.
I don't know much about the situation in Britain, but it's pretty clear what's happened on this side of the pond. With education funding just beginning to recover from the 2009 downturn, it's harder to get schools to buy stuff. More important, Pearson was supposed to be one of the major beneficiaries of Common Core spending. It expected to dominate the market with its high stakes tests, along with educational materials schools would purchase by the truckload to help students boost their scores. But it got pummeled by the double-whammy uproar over Common Core from the right and the left. States have pulled out of what was supposed to be a nationwide common set of standards, and many of them decided to go with other tests from other sources. It looked like a sure thing, but it's looking more and more like Pearson bet on the wrong pony.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Review: Hillary’s America: the Secret History of the Democratic Party

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 8:59 AM

Author and film maker Dinesh D’Souza’s latest film opened nationwide last Thursday. It is a history lesson in two parts.

It starts with a short and somewhat creepy sequence of swirling cartoon representations of different Democrat politicians to the tune of “Happy Days are Here Again”. The movie then begins with a re-enactment of the sentencing phase of D’Souza’s trial for violation of campaign finance laws. This was the beginning of part one.

Yes, it’s true, Dinesh D’Souza had a friend who was running for office to whom he donated $20k. So far, so good, but he then had a third party donate another $20k which was reimbursed by D’Souza. He was charged with a felony. His lawyer said that this sort of case is common and that nobody suffers a felony and that he would get it reduced for him. After some time, his lawyer told him that the court was not budging, he could not get the charge reduced, and that somebody must really want to get him. This took place after the D’Souza movie 2016: Obama’s America which was critical of the president. He pleaded guilty to the felony and was sentenced to five years probation, eight months in a "community confinement center," eight hours a week of community service during the probation, and a thirty thousand dollar fine. It was sort of a “Lite” version of G.Gordon Liddy’s sentence of 20 years in prison (commuted to eight years by President Carter) for a first offense breaking and entering where nothing was stolen—his punishment for not co-operating with Democrats after the Watergate fiasco.

After the courtroom scene, there was a humorous sequence showing his induction to the "community confinement center" and getting used to the company of hardened criminals. He began to learn about the criminal subculture which had been totally foreign to him. Through speaking with his fellow inmates, he distilled the four major aspects of the criminal enterprise: 1, Develop a plan; 2, Recruit; 3, Make the pitch; 4, If caught, always deny, never give up the con. He uses his newfound understanding of criminality as a framework for explaining the success and ultimate goal of the Democrat Party.

D’Souza dived back in history to the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the Democrat president who drove Native Americans off their land onto reservations, then sold the land cheaply to buy votes. The Republicans fought against the plan, but the Democrats got it passed. He proceeds through history to the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan, lynching, big city political machines, Margaret Sanger, and finally debunking the claim that Republicans under Nixon decided to appeal to Southern racists and that is why black people turned to the Democrats after the racists in the party became Republicans. It was given the term, “The Southern Strategy.”

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Bill (and Hillary) Clinton's For-Profit College Problem

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 3:00 PM

I'm against for-profit schooling. It's possible for a school designed to make a profit to offer its students a quality education, but the lure of the almighty dollar makes the urge to recruit students who don't have the qualifications to benefit from the school and to scrimp on staff and supplies, because every dollar you don't spend is another dollar in your pocket, is nearly irresistible. I don't like it when charter schools are run as for-profit enterprises, and for-profit colleges are notorious for getting most of their money from government-based student financial aid and supplementing that with student loans, then giving their students a substandard education and leaving them in debt.

That means I don't think much of Laureate Education, a for-profit higher-education company that runs schools around the world, or the fact that Bill Clinton was paid a total of $16.5 million to serve as honorary chancellor of Laureate International Universities from 2010 to 2014.

Laureate Education has 85 campuses around the world. The greatest number are in Latin America, 31, followed by Europe, 23. The U.S. has 8. Some are brick-and-mortar institutions, others are online schools. Laureate spends more than $200 million a year on advertising, uses aggressive student recruiting techniques and sometimes increases enrollment without expanding its faculty or facilities to properly serve the larger student body.

If you want to know more details about Laureate Education, the best article I found is in a Bloomberg publication from 2014. Here's the key sentence in a very long story.
Laureate has thrived by exporting many of the practices that for-profit colleges adopted in the U.S., such as offering career-oriented courses and spending heavily on marketing. Such strategies helped build what was a booming industry until 2010, when recruiting abuses and mounting student debt spurred a regulatory crackdown by President Barack Obama’s administration.
That pretty much sums it up. The owner saw a flawed, roundly criticized, very profitable U.S. education model and decided to take it worldwide.

What did Bill Clinton do to earn his money?
In this paid position, Clinton has trekked to Laureate’s campuses in countries such as Malaysia, Peru and Spain, making more than a dozen appearances on [Laureate Education's] behalf.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Republican Party's Education Platform

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 11:00 AM

  • Shutterstock
A week ago I wrote about the Democratic party's education platform, which became significantly more progressive than the 2012 version as it moved from the first draft to its final form. The Republican party's education platform is pretty similar to its 2012 version, with a few changes around the edges. It added a condemnation of the move to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice, and it says an understanding of the Bible is "indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry" and encourages the study of the Bible as an elective part of the literature curriculum in high schools.

This paragraph sums up the general educational view presented in the platform.
After years of trial and error, we know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement: Choice in education; building on the basics; STEM subjects and phonics; career and technical education; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards. Because technology has become an essential tool of learning, it must be a key element in our efforts to provide every child equal access and opportunity. We strongly encourage instruction in American history and civics by using the original documents of our founding fathers. 
A few specific recommendations in the Republican platform are supported by many Democrats, like its condemnation of Common Core, its concern over "excessive testing and 'teaching to the test'” and its concern about the collection and sharing of "vast amounts of personal student and family data, including the collection of social and emotional data." The two parties differ on most other issues.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: 2 Month Anniversary

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 12:43 PM


  • PhotoSpin
Two months ago when Prop 123 passed, Governor Ducey said we had taken a "first step" toward addressing Arizona's chronic underfunding of K-12 education. Everyone acknowledged it was a shaky, uncertain step. Some were pleased to see what they thought was a wobbly step forward by the young 'un, while others thought it was a dangerous step backwards, but few people thought that one step was all we needed.

On the two month anniversary, the toddler has yet to take a second step, and its fathers and mothers—the Ducey machine, the business community, education groups—appear to be neglecting their child, if not abandoning it entirely.

An acknowledgement of the two month anniversary of that first step is in order—a cake, candles, something to mark the occasion. Since the parents of the tyke don't appear to be in a celebratory mood, I will take it upon myself to blow out the candles and make a few wishes.

My first wish is that Governor Ducey reveal his plans for the next step to improve K-12 education. If he plans to increase the education budget next legislative session, that would be hopeful. If all he wants to do is shift around the deck chairs, using his Classrooms First Initiatives Council to move the cushiest chaises in the areas where the wealthiest Arizonans hang out, it would be helpful to know that so people can protest against his anti-poor, anti-minority agenda.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Turkey's Failed Coup Attempt: The Charter School Connection

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 3:09 PM

  • Fethullah Gulen, Courtesy of
Some members of Turkey's military attempted a coup last week and failed. Game over? Not quite. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is arresting thousands of people who he says were connected to the coup. And he's asking the U.S. to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who lives in Pennsylvania and has a strong following here and in Turkey, including people who are now or have been part of the Turkish government. Secretary of State Kerry says he hasn't gotten a formal request from Turkey but will review any information he receives from its government. Gulen denies he is in any way connected to the failed coup.

Here's where the charter school connection comes in. Fethullah Gulen is connected indirectly—or directly depending on who you're talking to—to the Sonoran charter schools and other charters around the country. There are three Sonoran Science Academies in Tucson, including one on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and three Sonoran charters in the Phoenix area.

I began writing about the Sonoran Science Academies and their connections to Gulen in 2010, as did Tim Vanderpool in the Weekly and Tim Steller in the Star. The connection was even the subject of a 60 Minutes investigation in 2012. A group of people around the country believe the charters are too closely connected to Gulen and violate the requirement that public schools have no religious affiliation. They make a strong circumstantial case, but they've never proven a direct connection.

What we know is that the Arizona charters have a strong academic reputation, especially in the areas of science and math. We also know that many of their directors and administrators are of Turkish descent, and they have a number of Turkish teachers, some of whom have been brought to the U.S. on H-1B visas for the express purpose of teaching at the schools. We also know that the schools teach Turkish culture, though it may be in a similar way that a French school teaches French culture. Some say the schools have direct links to Gulen, which the schools deny.

Expect to hear more about the schools if the story linking Gulen to the failed coup stays in the news.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Another Look at TUSD Salary Hikes and Prop 123

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2016 at 4:15 PM

  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
A few weeks ago I wrote a post trying to sort out what looked like contradictory information about the amount of Prop 123 money TUSD devoted to teacher salary raises. An article in the Star made it look like TUSD devoted far less of the new funding to increasing teacher salaries—about a third of the money, which amounted to a $700 raise—than neighboring districts, which would mean TUSD was shortchanging its teachers. But the article also mentioned the possibility that the district had found other ways to increase salaries. Meanwhile, the TUSD website states that returning teachers will make $2,000 more in 2016-17 than they made in the previous year. I ended the post by scratching my head and admitting I didn't know how to figure out the actual pay raises based on the information I had.

Since then, more has been written on the subject, and the pay raise situation is clearer. Here's the short version: As the TUSD website states, returning teachers will get a $2,000 raise over the previous year, which is in the same ballpark as neighboring districts. That's because, at the May 10 school board meeting a week before the Prop 123 vote, the board approved a $1,300 teacher raise. After Prop 123 passed, $700 was added to that amount, resulting in a $2,000 raise. Other Tucson-area districts created a variety of salary raise and retention incentive bonus packages, some of which are a bit more generous, and some a bit less generous, than TUSD's.

Here's the longer version, which I believe is accurate. If I've got my facts or numbers wrong, I'm sure people will let me know in the comments section.

At TUSD's May 10, 2016, board meeting, a salary raise was approved. It increased the pay for each salary step by $800, and since returning teachers move up a step which adds another $500, the total increase for returning teachers was $1,300. Since Prop 123 hadn't come up for a vote, the money for the raises was taken from maintenance and operations funds as well as Prop 301 funds. The $1,300 salary increase was guaranteed whether Prop 123 went up or down.

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