stephanie jones

Archive for the ‘social action’ Category

The Most Important Education of our Time? The Servant Economy and Jeff Faux

In class-sensitive teaching, classism, corporations, economics and economies, politics, poverty, social action, social class on September 9, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I have posted before about the book The Servant Economy by Jeff Faux, but wanted to share this BookTV video with anyone out there who wants to watch it either in conjunction with reading his book or as some strange version of cliffnotes (warning – he doesn’t talk much about the details in the book, so the talk doesn’t “replace” reading in any way, but is interesting nonetheless).

Click here to watch the video

The overwhelming evidence that our country’s jobs are declining and that pay for jobs is stagnant at best and in a sharp downward trend at worst may be the most important education issue of our lifetime. I don’t mean, by the way, that we need “more education” so people can get “better jobs” – I mean, that we need a broad and deep economic education from K-12, into higher education, and in all communities so that we understand the consequences of income inequality and can envision our country’s dark future if we don’t demand something different.

This is not about political parties. Jeff Faux says this well in his talk, and I regularly say this to teaches and principals I work with (though I’m not sure they believe me). Both U.S. political parties have opened the floodgates for global trade, enacted policies bad for U.S. workers, and – this is important – both parties are owned by corporate interests. The last point is one Jeff takes on in his talk – instead of proposing several potential action items, he proposes one: get corporate money out of politics. He suggests that we do this by organizing locally and state-by-state to propose a constitutional amendment that would reform campaign finance.

This is about money. And for some reason, it seems to me, that “money” is left nearly entirely out of curricula at all levels beyond learning to “count” money and occasionally some word problems in mathematics. But money has literally become the engine running our political, social, and economic engines of our country. He (and it is mostly a He) who has money gets to influence the policies governing what our social and political futures will be.

How can we begin the critical conversation about money and influence in elementary, middle, high, and postsecondary school? In community non-profits? In doctor’s office waiting rooms? In unemployment lines? At the park, library, playground and schoolyard?

Let’s at least start talking about it – and if folks will either read or watch videos of some of the most prominent economic voices of our time to educate ourselves about economics and the economic reality we’re living right now, we will at least have some of the language necessary to open up the conversations. And then we can also ask ourselves why most of us have no idea how to think of such things and have such discussions, why social class and any economics education beyond the “basics” of exploitative capitalism are not a part of curricula, and what we’re going to do to change it for our own collective good.

 

Projecting and Producing Failure – Where is Success?

In critical literacy, democracy, discourse, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, social action on April 27, 2012 at 8:06 pm

An essay from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective

teachinggeorgia@gmailcom

 

Projecting and Producing Failure – Where is Success?

An Essay from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective

The end of the CRCT (Georgia State Standardized Tests) marks the time of the school year that teachers look forward to most. Its the time when teachers have more freedom and flexibility to teach in student-centered, inquiry-based, and curiosity-driven ways. It’s the time of the year when tensions subside and mandates are over. Well, at least that’s what we used to look forward to. However, this year after the CRCT is over there is a new district mandate in Clarke County to which third and fifth grade teachers must adhere. It’s called the “Blitz.”

Third and fifth grade teachers across the district have been asked to compile a list of students “projected to fail” the CRCT. Teachers were forced to use previous standardized assessments to determine this list of students. And if the lists weren’t long enough, teachers were told to add more, just in case.

Students on the “projected to fail” list will be involved in a “Blitz” session immediately following the conclusion of the CRCT – before test results are even known. Students will be re-rostered – that is, the students will be grouped with new students and different teachers so all the “projected failures” will be in one class receiving “intense remediation” while the remaining students will experience “acceleration and enrichment.”

This means that while some students are investigating how tornadoes are formed, creating inventions to fix a problem they see in their community, or making informational videos using iPads, the “projected to fail” students will be sitting in a computer lab staring at a screen and listening through headphones to practice skill and drill reading assignments for an hour every day. This is on top of the hour and a half of direct reading instruction they will receive.

When does the torture end? Why aren’t all students given the opportunity to learn in creative and inspired ways? Why are students who may struggle with reading constantly given boring and uninspiring things they must read while other students have choice and learn to read through creative projects? Don’t all students need an enriching and encouraging environment surrounded by friends and teachers that know them best?

“Struggling” students are constantly on the losing end of every battle – and now they lose even before their test results are known.

If students aren’t successful on a high-stakes standardized test in reading, the blame is aimed at the student who is labeled defective and in need of fixing. But what if the student isn’t what needs fixing? What if the way school policies and mandates are created is what needs fixing? What if the budget is what’s broken? What if we stop blaming the students, their parents, and the teachers and instead look at the conditions of schooling that produce failure?

We dream of a school system where students aren’t projected to fail and schools don’t produce failure. That school system would encourage teachers to slow down and learn about a student who is struggling and design instruction to make that student successful. We teachers don’t need more textbooks, scripted curricula or software programs, we need time to teach our students in the way that is best for them. And students don’t need more textbooks, scripted curricula or software programs either. They need a less stressful and anxiety-ridden environment and more time in creative, supportive classrooms where they know they are valued and projected to succeed.  They need student-centered inquiries back in their school lives, and teachers who do engaging projects with them where they ask questions and find answers.

School systems’ fear of failure has created the conditions for more failure to emerge. We might all be surprised if we stopped making decisions out of fear of failure and started making decisions based on hope and seeing our students as possibility. Let’s change the definition of “success” to include more than one test score and project success for all our students.

 

We might begin with a different kind of “Blitz” – which is defined as an intense campaign for something, even if most definitions refer specifically to military campaigns. Let’s use the end of the school year for a “School is a place I want to be” Blitz to motivate students to make deep connections to school and inspire them to look forward to the fall. Keeping them in their classrooms with teachers and students they have come to know and trust all year is one place to start, and engaging them with challenging and creative projects is another. If we don’t, this “Blitz” for the CRCT – even after the CRCT is over – will likely backfire on us all.

 

End NCLB – don’t try to fix it.

In Education Policy, NCLB, social action, Standing up for Kids on October 26, 2011 at 1:02 pm

The reauthorization of the ESEA is under way, but most of us know this thing called No Child Left Behind is not worth trying to “reform” – it has destroyed children, teachers, administrators, schools, districts, and the integrity of an entire profession and U.S. enterprise (public education) as it openly required that corporations (e.g. testing corporations) take over control of curriculum and assessment in every public school in America. Diane Ravitch writes below about why it should be ended:

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 06:32 AM PDT
Dear Deborah,
Have you been following the evolving story of the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind? I have, and it is disheartening. Instead of ditching this disastrous law, senators are trying to apply patches.
Most people now recognize that NCLB is a train wreck. Its mandates have imposed on American public education an unhealthy obsession with standardized testing.
  • It has incentivized cheating, as we have seen in the well-publicized cheating scandals in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.
  • It has encouraged states to game the system, as we saw in New York state, where the state tests were made easier and more predictable so as to bolster the number of children who reached “proficiency.”
  • It has narrowed the curriculum; many districts and schools have reduced or eliminated time for the arts, physical education, and other non-tested subjects.
  • It has caused states to squander billions of dollars on testing and test preparation, while teachers are laid off and essential services slashed. Now we will squander millions more on test security to detect cheating.

Because of NCLB, more than 80 percent of our nation’s public schools will be labeled “failures” this year. By 2014, on the NCLB timetable of destruction, close to 100 percent of public schools will have “failed” in their efforts to reach the unreachable goal of 100 percent proficiency in reading and math. Has there ever been a national legislative body anywhere else in the world that has passed legislation that labeled almost every one of its schools a failure? I don’t think so.

Despite the manifest failure of NCLB, the Obama administration proposes not to scrap it, but to offer waivers if states agree to accept the mandates selected by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The secretary has a great fondness for teacher evaluation, having decided (in concert with the Gates Foundation) that the key to better education is to tie teachers’ jobs and tenure to their students’ test scores. This, of course, will raise the stakes attached to testing. Mr. Duncan has already used the billions in Race to the Top to bribe states to impose his unproven policies on their schools.
Happily, the latest version of the NCLB reauthorization does not include the teacher evaluation provisions that Mr. Duncan wants. That’s good, but not good enough, because many states are already well down that path, not only the 11 that “won” the Race to the Top, but others that wanted to make themselves eligible. Tennessee was one of the “winners.” NPR did a story about Tennessee’s teacher evaluation program, which explained why the program is so thoroughly disliked by that state’s teachers; see this article, as well.
When, if ever, will policymakers realize that they should find ways to support teachers, not to demoralize them? I just don’t see how it is impossible to “improve” schools without the active engagement of the people who do the daily work of schooling. There is just so much top-down beating-up that can go on before teachers and principals rise up in protest, especially when so many at the top are not educators.
Lawmakers in D.C. and in the state capitals are not competent to decide how to reform schools and how to evaluate teachers. In what other profession would this kind of interference be tolerated?
The federal government does not know how to reform schools. Period. Congress doesn’t, and the U.S. Department of Education doesn’t.
The fundamental role of the federal government should be to advance equality of educational opportunity. That’s a tall order. Congress should revive the commitments made in 1965, when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed: To use federal resources on behalf of the neediest students; to protect the civil rights of students; to conduct research about education; to report on the condition and progress of American education.
So long as Congress tries to breathe life into the moribund NCLB legislation, its members are wasting their time.
Diane

Can Non-Authoritarian Education find a space in Occupy Wall Street?

In institutions, justice, NCLB, Neoliberalism and Education, social action, social class on October 17, 2011 at 12:53 am

Thanks to Teri for sending this along!

With this amazing grassroots movement emerging against corporate power, corporate greed, and economic inequality – where might education find its space within it? If, for example, people in the U.S. are sick and tired of the corporate model of running a society, then people are likely also sick of the corporate model running schools. If that’s the case…what kinds of schools would be responsive to the needs and desires of the people?

Perhaps a non-authoritarian model where children/youth work individually and collectively toward socially responsible ends?

This might be the perfect time to insert educational goals in OWS!

 

 

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!

Parents Opt-Out of Testing for Kids

In democracy, Education Policy, government, high-stakes tests, NCLB, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, social action, Standing up for Kids on March 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Thanks to J.J. for sending this my way:

Mother Hopes Others will Opt Out of Standardized Testing

By Ross Levitt and Susan Candiotti, CNN
March 21, 2011 5:52 p.m. EDT

Click to play
Parents opt out of standardized tests
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pennsylvania woman says tests are inaccurate, used to punish schools
  • College education professor agrees they are waste of time
  • Proponent calls tests “a parent’s ally,” says they improve schools
  • No national statistics exist on opting out

State College, Pennsylvania (CNN) — A Pennsylvania mother has decided she does not want her two children to take the two-week-long standardized tests given by her state as part of the federal No Child Left Behind law. And she hopes other parents will do the same.

Michele Gray’s sons — Ted Rosenblum, 11, and John Michael Rosenblum, 9 — did independent study the week of March 14 while their classmates were filling in hundreds of bubbles in classrooms with doors marked, “Quiet. Testing in Progress.”

Gray says the only legal exemption that would allow her kids to sit out the tests was a religious objection. So that’s what she did.

But Gray says her concerns go well beyond religion. “The more I look at standardized tests, the more I realize that we have, as parents, been kind of sold a bill of goods.”

She says the tests are not accurate measures of accomplishment, create undue anxiety for students and are used to punish schools.

She gives the example of her sons’ award-winning school, Park Forest Elementary, which last year was put on “warning” status after the school’s special education students fell below the level of progress the state expects on their exams.

“The more I looked at it, the more outraged I became,” Gray said, “This is not something I want to be contributing to (or) something I want my children participating in.”

Dr. Timothy Slekar, an associate professor of education at Penn State Altoona, agrees. It was his op-ed piece on the Huffington Post website that inspired Gray to take action.

Slekar is also a father and this year chose not to allow his 11-year-old son Luke to take the tests. He says schools are narrowing their curricula in an effort to boost test scores and wasting too much time preparing for, and then taking, the tests.

He says the tests aren’t an accurate indicator of a child’s — or a school’s — performance. “I’m a father and an educator who’s finally said, ‘This is it. I’m done.’ Something has to give. Something has to change,” Slekar said.

Another education professor, Dana Mitra, also isn’t happy with the tests, but decided to allow her third-grader daughter to take them this year because she’s afraid that holding her daughter out could harm the school’s test results.

“Given that we’re interested in wanting our schools to be the best that they can, we feel pressure as parents to want to help our school,” she said. She’s not sure what she’ll do with her daughter next year.

Testing proponents, such as United Negro College Fund President and CEO Michael Lomax, say parents who opt out “are doing their own children a disservice.” He added, “Testing is a parent’s ally” and that in order to compete with countries such as China and India, U.S. schools need to be held to a higher standard. And testing, he says, is the way to do it.

“The testing isn’t the reason the schools are failing. The instruction is the reason the schools are failing,” Lomax insisted.

But “opt-out” parents like Gray and Slekar are undeterred.

Gray has a Facebook page aimed at helping other parents learn that they are able to opt out of testing and how to do it.

Parents in Colorado have created a similar website.

Despite these efforts, opting out of standardized tests is rare nationwide. The U.S. Department of Education says it doesn’t track the numbers.

At Park Forest Elementary, where Gray’s children go, nine out of 500 were held out of standardized tests this year, including Gray’s. Last year, all the students there took the test.

President Barack Obama, at a March speech at a Virginia school, acknowledged testing reform is needed. But he says testing isn’t going away.

“There will be testing,” he said. “We can have accountability without rigidity — accountability that still encourages creativity inside the classroom, and empowers teachers and students and administrators.”

His administration recently announced a $300 million grant aimed at revamping standardized tests.

Meantime, Ted and John Michael won’t be participating. Their mother thinks if enough parents follow her lead, high-stakes testing may go away altogether.

Michael Lomax thinks parents like Gray are hurting education. “I’m sure they love their kids,” he said, “but I think they are wrong.”

Obama on LGBTQ bullying…and CDC website for LGBTQ youth

In democracy, families, family-school relations, identity, institutions, justice, professional development resources, social action, Standing up for Kids, teacher education resources, Uncategorized on March 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Love this!

 

Obama’s video message to LGBTQ youth.

 

And the Center for Disease Control’s website for LGBTQ Health – great resource!

Education won’t create jobs – it’s the economy stupid.

In communities, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, justice, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, poverty, social action, social class on March 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm
New York times
Op-Ed Columnist

Degrees and Dollars

By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: March 6, 2011

It is a truth universally acknowledged that education is the key to economic success. Everyone knows that the jobs of the future will require ever higher levels of skill. That’s why, in an appearance Friday with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Obama declared that “If we want more good news on the jobs front then we’ve got to make more investments in education.”

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Paul Krugman

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

But what everyone knows is wrong.

The day after the Obama-Bush event, The Times published an article about the growing use of software to perform legal research. Computers, it turns out, can quickly analyze millions of documents, cheaply performing a task that used to require armies of lawyers and paralegals. In this case, then, technological progress is actually reducing the demand for highly educated workers.

And legal research isn’t an isolated example. As the article points out, software has also been replacing engineers in such tasks as chip design. More broadly, the idea that modern technology eliminates only menial jobs, that well-educated workers are clear winners, may dominate popular discussion, but it’s actually decades out of date.

The fact is that since 1990 or so the U.S. job market has been characterized not by a general rise in the demand for skill, but by “hollowing out”: both high-wage and low-wage employment have grown rapidly, but medium-wage jobs — the kinds of jobs we count on to support a strong middle class — have lagged behind. And the hole in the middle has been getting wider: many of the high-wage occupations that grew rapidly in the 1990s have seen much slower growth recently, even as growth in low-wage employment has accelerated.

Why is this happening? The belief that education is becoming ever more important rests on the plausible-sounding notion that advances in technology increase job opportunities for those who work with information — loosely speaking, that computers help those who work with their minds, while hurting those who work with their hands.

Some years ago, however, the economists David Autor, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane argued that this was the wrong way to think about it. Computers, they pointed out, excel at routine tasks, “cognitive and manual tasks that can be accomplished by following explicit rules.” Therefore, any routine task — a category that includes many white-collar, nonmanual jobs — is in the firing line. Conversely, jobs that can’t be carried out by following explicit rules — a category that includes many kinds of manual labor, from truck drivers to janitors — will tend to grow even in the face of technological progress.

And here’s the thing: Most of the manual labor still being done in our economy seems to be of the kind that’s hard to automate. Notably, with production workers in manufacturing down to about 6 percent of U.S. employment, there aren’t many assembly-line jobs left to lose. Meanwhile, quite a lot of white-collar work currently carried out by well-educated, relatively well-paid workers may soon be computerized. Roombas are cute, but robot janitors are a long way off; computerized legal research and computer-aided medical diagnosis are already here.

And then there’s globalization. Once, only manufacturing workers needed to worry about competition from overseas, but the combination of computers and telecommunications has made it possible to provide many services at long range. And research by my Princeton colleagues Alan Blinder and Alan Krueger suggests that high-wage jobs performed by highly educated workers are, if anything, more “offshorable” than jobs done by low-paid, less-educated workers. If they’re right, growing international trade in services will further hollow out the U.S. job market.

So what does all this say about policy?

Yes, we need to fix American education. In particular, the inequalities Americans face at the starting line — bright children from poor families are less likely to finish college than much less able children of the affluent — aren’t just an outrage; they represent a huge waste of the nation’s human potential.

But there are things education can’t do. In particular, the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job, and it’s becoming less true with each passing decade.

So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn’t the answer — we’ll have to go about building that society directly. We need to restore the bargaining power that labor has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages. We need to guarantee the essentials, above all health care, to every citizen.

What we can’t do is get where we need to go just by giving workers college degrees, which may be no more than tickets to jobs that don’t exist or don’t pay middle-class wages.

Governor Walker “punk’d” and exposes the real issue: political and class warfare – not balancing a budget

In Neoliberalism and Education, politics, social action, social class, Teaching Work, work and workers on February 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Check this out… from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2014314086_wisconsin24.html

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been punk’d, his office confirmed Wednesday. The Republican governor who is pushing legislation that would end collective bargaining for public employees was at the wrong end of a prank telephone call with a person he believed was David Koch, a conservative billionaire businessman.

By Seattle Times news services

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks to the press outside his office at the State Capitol on February 23, 2011. Protestors have occupied the State Capitol building for the past nine days while the governor has tried to push through a bill that would restrict collective bargaining for most government workers.

Enlarge this photoSCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks to the press outside his office at the State Capitol on February 23, 2011. Protestors have occupied the State Capitol building for the past nine days while the governor has tried to push through a bill that would restrict collective bargaining for most government workers.

David H. Koch

Enlarge this photoROBERT CAPLIN / NYT

David H. Koch

Related

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been punk’d, his office confirmed Wednesday. The Republican governor who is pushing legislation that would end collective bargaining for public employees was at the wrong end of a prank telephone call with a person he believed was David Koch, a conservative billionaire businessman.

In reality, the caller was Ian Murphy, a blogger from Buffalo, N.Y.

Koch and his brother, Charles, own Koch Industries, the largest privately owned company in America and one with significant operations in Wisconsin. Its political-action committee gave $43,000 to Walker’s campaign, and David Koch gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which funded ads attacking Walker’s opponent in last year’s election.

The Kochs also give millions to support Americans For Prosperity, a conservative business group that launched a $320,000 television ad campaign in favor of Walker’s legislation Wednesday.

Posing as David Koch, Murphy makes inflammatory statements on unions and Democrats. Walker says Wisconsin is at the vanguard of a set of states in which conservative governors are battling with workers over union rights. Walker agrees with the impersonator that Wisconsin is the “first domino.”

“This is our moment,” he says on the recording.

Walker also explains potential tactics for breaking the deadlock, including trying to lure Democratic senators who fled the state back to the Capitol to negotiate and then pushing the bill through while Republicans have the quorum needed to move the measure.

“If you had heard that I was going to talk to them, that would be the only reason why,” Walker says on the recording.

The governor also said he planned to announce Thursday that state workers would start receiving notices that they’re at risk for layoff. Walker says 5,000 to 6,000 such notices could be sent.

At the end of the call, the prankster says: “I’ll tell you what, Scott, once you crush these bastards, I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.”

“All right, that would be outstanding,” Walker replies, adding the standoff is “all about getting our freedoms back.”

Democrats seized on the recorded comments as evidence that Walker plans to go beyond budget cuts to crushing unions.

“This isn’t about balancing the budget. This is about a political war,” Rep. Jon Richards yelled Wednesday on the floor of the state Assembly.

The governor’s plan would strip most public employees of collective-bargaining rights and force them to pay more for health-care and retirement benefits. Unions could not collect mandatory dues and would be forced to conduct annual votes of members to stay in existence.

The proposal has set off more than a week of protests at the Capitol.

Murphy, who runs an online publication called the Buffalo Beast, said he was inspired to prank the governor Tuesday after hearing he was difficult to contact. Murphy said he developed his Koch impression through brief research mixed with guesswork as to how the businessman might sound.

Charles Marsh, who teaches journalism ethics at the University of Kansas, said the website’s tactic “certainly doesn’t fall into any time-tested concept of what a true journalist is.”

Yet, Marsh added, “I acknowledge my own hypocrisy. I think it’s disgraceful and shameful. I would fire any reporter who did that. But I can’t wait to read what the governor said.”

Compiled from the Chicago Tribune, The Associated Press and McClatchy Newspapers

Is this land still made for you and me?

In American Dream, democracy, government, institutions, justice, social action, social class on February 24, 2011 at 2:21 am

Tom Morello at the Wisconsin protests – this is amazing stuff!!

 

 

Make a sign and put it in your car – use a marker for a T-shirt and wear it tomorrow – draw on your backpack or grocery bag – stand in solidarity with workers in Wisconsin and everywhere. This is how history is made, and we have to be on the right side of it this time!

 

 

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