stephanie jones

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

“Time to Tax the Rich” says one of the world’s richest men

In democracy, discourse, government, institutions, justice, politics, poverty on August 15, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Thanks to MV for passing this along – Warren Buffett has always gone out on limbs and here he goes again. He knows our country – especially our country’s politicians – has lost its way and fairly taxing the most wealthy is exactly what can lead us to the right path. In this article he tells of paying around 17% of his taxable income while many middle-class Americans pay up to 40% of their taxable incomes. Buffett calls it “coddling the rich” and I couldn’t agree more. Coddling those at the very top of our income earning ladder who have acquired the majority of the economic resources in our country makes us a country of extreme Haves and Have-Nots. Those who have abundance wealth enjoy more tax credits and access to powerful people while paying a much smaller overall income tax, and those who are on the bottom 90% of the wealth ladder pay higher taxes, get less from the government in terms of tax credits and safety nets, and end up barely being able to pay their bills and feed their families.

And what about “entitlements”? I have practiced a new response to all those people who tell me that “government entitlement programs must go” before we raise taxes on anyone:

1. Do you own a home? Are you paying a mortgage? Then you are part of (probably the nation’s largest) entitlement program – it’s called your mortgage interest tax credit and in many cases it earns you more per year than a family receives from the government in food stamps per year.

2. Are you, or do you know, someone who owns land registered as agricultural for tax purposes? Wooops. There’s another entitlement program.

3. Have you taken on any home improvement projects to lower energy costs and submitted those receipts for a tax credit? Hmmmm….

4. Do you send your child to private school and live in a state where there is a loophole for claiming that tuition as charitable contributions to an educational institution? There’s another.

5. And what about these entitlements: You are entitled to police security in your community; You are entitled to being protected by a fire department if you need them for any reason; You are entitled to drive and walk on public roads and sidewalks; You are entitled to free and public education from grades Kindergarten through 12. Want to get rid of those too?

We are not yet entitled to any of these things with dignity if we are poor or struggling in any way, but there sure is pride and dignity in receiving that mortgage interest tax credit/entitlement!

Thanks Warren – we need more of you and your fellow billionaires to speak out loudly and clearly.


Riots in London and Connections to U.S. Politics and “Society”

In American Dream, critical literacy, democracy, discourse, government, justice, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, poverty on August 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Hey all – thanks to a friend for sending this along. I have grown more impatient with the “These are your children, control them!” response from UK officials to the riots in London that resulted from a police officer killing a young man of color. UK officials are now considering the eviction of all families related to any accused in the riots. Great – so then the disenfranchised, angry, resentful collection of working-class and poor (mostly) immigrants will be homeless. This is a terrific solution! That should certainly prevent any future uprisings.

Is this an uprising? Or is it just a bunch of hoodlum adolescents expressing their greed and self-righteousness the way UK officials make them out to be?

It may be an uprising.

We weren’t surprised by the uprisings in the Middle East this year, but somehow people are less inclined to speak of “uprisings” in the “civilized, western” world including metropolitan London.

But this may just be an uprising.

Margaret Thatcher (the woman who spoke the words “There is no such thing as society” quoted at the bottom of this article in The Guardian) and her cronies including everyone involved in the Reagan era politics wanted “individuals” who were solely responsible for themselves and no one else – just as no one else would be responsible for those individuals – would be bound to consumerism and market fetishes and not worry about something so abstract as “society.”


This is a terrific article and a nice primer for folks not familiar with “neoliberal” policies of the last 30-40 years and their implications.


Amazing letter from teachers

In Education Policy, high-stakes tests, teacher education on August 12, 2011 at 4:47 am

This is a truly amazing letter written by three teachers in Georgia about what they want for the kids they teach. Thank goodness hundreds of thousands of teachers will show up to schools this fall with exactly these things in mind instead of being chased away and beaten down by poor policies and know-it-all politicians.

Thanks to Maureen Downey for posting this – and thanks to a friend for passing it onto me;)


This is fun too! Is your school too focused on the state test?

In high-stakes tests, NCLB on August 10, 2011 at 3:14 am

I love this song – “Not on the Test”

In high-stakes tests, NCLB on August 10, 2011 at 3:09 am

Thanks to a friend for passing this along – I had heard it and should have posted it before now:

FABULOUS speech by Linda Darling-Hammond!

In democracy, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, poverty, prison, social action, social policy, teacher education resources on August 4, 2011 at 2:35 am

Thanks to JB for sending this via email…

From the Washington Post:

Posted at 07:30 PM ET, 08/01/2011

Darling-Hammond: The mess we are in

Stanford University Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond helped Barack Obama draft his educational plan when he was a presidential candidate, and advised him on education issues during the transition between Obama’s 2008 election and 2009 inauguration. Since then, she has opposed the standardized test-based school reform policies of the Obama administration. Her speech at last Saturday’s Save Our Schools March in Washington D.C. explains the extent of the trouble public education is in. Here it is.

Darling-Hammond directs the Stanford University Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and was founding director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. A former president of the American Educational Research Association, Darling-Hammond focuses her research, teaching, and policy work on issues of school restructuring, teacher quality and educational equity.

Darling-Hammond’s speech:

Many people are asking: Why are we here? We are here because we are committed to a strong public education system that works for ALL our children. We are here because we want to prepare children for the 21st century world they are entering, not for an endless series of multiple-choice tests that increasingly deflect us from our mission to teach them well. We are here to protest the policies that produce the increasingly segregated and underfunded schools so many of our children attend, and we are here to represent the parents, educators and community members who fight for educational opportunity for them against the odds every day.

We are here to say it is not acceptable for the wealthiest country in the world to be cutting millions of dollars from schools serving our neediest students; to be cutting teachers by the tens of thousands, to be eliminating art, music, PE, counselors, nurses, librarians, and libraries (where they weren’t already gone, as in California); to be increasing class sizes to 40 or 50 in Los Angeles and Detroit.

It is not acceptable to have schools in our cities and poor rural districts staffed by a revolving door of beginning and often untrained teachers, many of whom see this as charity work they do on the way to a real job. And it is not acceptable that the major emphasis of educational reform is on bubbling in Scantron test booklets, the results of which will be used to rank and sort schools and teachers, so that those at the bottom can be fired or closed – not so that we will invest the resources needed actually to provide good education in these schools.

We are here to challenge the aggressive neglect of our children. With 1 out of 4 living in poverty — far more than any other industrialized country (nearly double what it was 30 years ago); a more tattered safety net – more who are homeless, without health care, and without food security; a more segregated and inequitable system of public education, in which the top schools spend 10 times more than the lowest spending; we nonetheless have a defense budget larger than that of the next 20 countries combined and greater disparities in wealth than any other leading country.

We have produced a larger and more costly prison system than any country in the world — we have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its inmates — populated primarily by high school dropouts on whom we would not spend $10,000 a year when they were in school, but we will spend more than $40,000 a year when they are in prison – a prison system that is now directly devouring the money we should be spending on education.

But our leaders do not talk about these things. They say there is no money for schools – and of poor children, they say: “Let them eat tests.”

And while many politicians talk of international test score comparisons, they rarely talk about what high-performing countries like Finland, Singapore, and Canada actually do: They ensure that all children have housing, health care, and food security. They fund their schools equitably. They invest in the highest-quality preparation, mentoring and professional development for teachers and school leaders, completely at government expense. They organize their curriculum around problem-solving and critical thinking skills. And they test students rarely (in Finland, not at all) – and almost never with multiple-choice tests.

Many of the top-performing nations rely increasingly on assessments that include research projects, scientific investigation, and other intellectually challenging work – developed and scored by teachers – just as progressive educators here have been urging for years.

None of these countries uses test scores to rank and sort teachers – indeed the Singaporean minister of education made a point of noting at the recent international summit on teaching that they believe such a practice would be counterproductive – and none of them rank and punish schools – indeed several countries forbid this practice. They invest in their people and build schools’ capacity to educate all their students.

Meanwhile, our leaders advocate for teachers with little training – who will come and go quickly, without costing much money, without vesting in the pension system, and without raising questions about an increasingly prescriptive system of testing and teaching that lines the pockets of private entrepreneurs (who provide teacher-proofed materials deemed necessary because there are so many underprepared novices who leave before they learn to teach).

Our leaders seek to solve the problem of the poor by blaming the teachers and schools that seek to serve them, calling the deepeninglevels of poverty an ‘excuse,’ rewarding schools that keep out and push out the highest need students, and threatening those who work with new immigrant students still learning English and the growing number of those who are homeless, without health care and without food. Are there lower scores in under-resourced schools with high-need students? Fire the teachers and the principals. Close the schools. Don’t look for supports for their families and communities, equitable funding for their schools, or investments in professional learning. Don’t worry about the fact that the next schools are – as researchers have documented — likely to do no better. If the banks are failing, we should fire the tellers. [And whatever you do, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.]

But public education has a secret weapon: the members of communities and the profession like yourselves who are committed first and foremost to our children and who have the courage to speak out against injustice.

This takes considerable courage – of the kind that has caused each of you to be here today. Remember, as Robert F. Kennedy said:

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”

Thank you for each ripple of hope you create – for each and every time you do what is right for children. Thank you for your courage and your commitment. It is that courage and commitment that will, ultimately, bring our country to its senses and save our schools. Keep your hand on the plow. Hold on!

When Cheating Might Be the Right Thing to Do

In Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, teacher education resources on August 3, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Thanks to Susan Ohanian for posting this – confessions from a cheating teacher.

The end of Corporations in the Classroom? Not quite, but some movement…

In corporations, creativity, critical literacy, democracy, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, professional development resources, Standing up for Kids, teacher education resources on August 3, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Check out this story on Scholastic’s decision  to end most of their corporate partnerships for distributing curriculum materials in schools after receiving sustained critique from organizations such as Rethinking Schools and Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood

Some fabulous inquiries for K-12 classrooms might include:

In what ways do corporations influence children and youth directly through schools?

Study the history of advertising to better understand the strategies used to influence children/youth. In what ways have these marketing approaches been criticized or ended? What other measures could be taken toward a “commercial-free” childhood?

Are there curricular materials in your classroom/school that position you to buy/consume certain products/services?

Are there curricular materials in your classroom/school that position you to believe certain things that might benefit corporations?

What kinds of analytical tools can provide all children and youth with the ability to deconstruct texts of all kinds?

What role do testing corporations have in determining what is and is not taught/learned in schools? What can students and educators do about that?

Have fun!

Surprisingly insightful speech by Matt Damon and other things from the SOS march

In democracy, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, professional development resources, Standing up for Kids on August 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Two of my undergraduate students went to the march in D.C. this past weekend – they will be posting videos, photos, and their thoughts coming soon. My conversation with them last night was incredible and pointed to so many things about what “education” is – in effect, their 20 hours of driving for a 24 hour event was, in itself, a powerful education – something they will never forget; something that reminded them of some of their readings; something that made them think about themselves and their country and their chosen profession in a profoundly different way. The ultimate field trip, I suggested – doing all the things to a body/mind/person that the best educational “field trips” can do. They laughed out loud and agreed – it was the ultimate field trip that was life-changing.

Here’s part of Matt Damon’s speech, posted at the ajc Get Schooled Blog by Maureen Downey.

What do I love most about what he said? That he pointed to the fact that everything he loves to do, everything he is good at and proud about in his life as a person could never be tested. That’s the point. I could say the same thing about me as a person and as a professional – none of it can be represented on a test. We have to get beyond our narrow-mindedness and small thinking about education – that’s what these tests are: small thinking. Let’s think BIG. Then we can get back to the business of education.


What comes after the SOS national march and rally?

In American Dream, democracy, discourse, Education Policy, government, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, Standing up for Kids, teacher education resources, Uncategorized on August 1, 2011 at 5:07 pm

So I’m more than envious of all you folks who participated in this historic event – but I’m still happy that I spent the day at my cousin’s wedding in Ohio celebrating with family and friends and dancing the night away…

But these speeches look like they were fabulous! Linda Darling-Hammond, Jonathan Kozol, John Kuhn, Diane Ravitch, and all the amazing educators, families, and children who are fighting every day to make sure kids are respected and can experience education with dignity and hope and power:

Other great video footage of the march.

What should we do now?

Paul Thomas has some good ideas here…

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