Posts Tagged ‘Charter Schools’

Lenin’s Speech Denouncing Anti-Semitism

November 22, 2017

I found this fascinating little clip of a speech by Lenin, the founder of Soviet Communism, on Maoist Rebel News, presented by Jason Unruhe. I am very definitely not a Maoist, as I think it’s undeniable that he was one of the most murderous tyrants of the 20th century. About 60 million Chinese died in the purges and mass starvation created by the ‘Cultural Revolution’, and countless precious art treasures and other monuments from the country’s rich, ancient past, were destroyed.

Nevertheless, this piece is interesting and important as it shows how the Bolsheviks took seriously the threat of anti-Semitism, and were keen to stamp it out. Unruhe made the video in response to an appearance by Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars on Mark Levin’s radio show. Harrison owns the pawn shop featured in the show. It’s an American programme, but it’s also shown over here on one of the satellite/cable channels. I tried watching it once, when it was on the History Channel, in the vague hope that it might actually be interesting. It wasn’t. The programme largely consisted of the crew musing over various artifacts – in this case, a couple of pistols left over from the Old West – and speculating about how much they were worth. It reminded me a little of the Beeb’s antiques’ programmes, with the exception that the people looking at the antiques didn’t actually seem to know very much about them, apart from the very basics.

On Levin’s show, Harrison went off and laid into Barack Obama. Obama was ‘anti-business’ and blamed the Jews and intelligentsia for everything, just like Lenin. Well, no. Barack Obama is not at all like Lenin. Barack Obama is very definitely not ‘anti-business’, even remotely. As the Jimmy Dore Show and other alternative news shows have pointed out, ad nauseam, Obama is a bog-standard corporatist politician. He tried to privatise the public schools by turning them into Charter Schools, the American equivalent of British academy schools. Even Obamacare is private enterprise. It was originally dreamed up by the right-wing Heritage Foundation and promoted by Newt Gingrich, an arch-Republican. The last time I looked, America was still very much a private enterprise economy. Obama has even said that he considers himself to be a ‘moderate Republican’.

But such accusations are almost par for the course for the bonkers end of the Republican party. There have even been right-wing Christian radio hosts declaring that he was a mass-murderer, who was secretly planning to kill even more people than Mao and Stalin. And this is apart from all the hysterical screaming that he was a Communist-Nazi-crypto-Islamist terrorist intent on bringing about the fall of America and western civilisation.

He also spent eight years in power, and has now departed. Nobody was assassinated, or rounded up in cattle trucks to be deported to death camps. Or incarcerated in FEMA, which would be the modern equivalent, if you believe Alex Jones. But the rhetoric shows the sheer, blind hysteria that gripped some of these maniacs whenever Obama was mentioned.

Unruhe points out that it is factually incorrect that Lenin blamed the Jews for the problems of the nascent Soviet Union. He states that the Soviet leader spent a year touring the former Russian Empire, denouncing anti-Semitism and Jew hatred. How is this known? Because there are recordings of him. He then plays one. It’s clearly from a gramophone recording, complete with crackles and scratches, but it is subtitled in English. My Russian really isn’t very good at all, but from what little I can catch, the translation is accurate, and it states what Lenin is actually saying.

Lenin states that it is the capitalists, the landowners and the tsars, who were trying to stir up hatred against the Jews, as a way of dividing the working people of all nations and getting them to hate each other. He states that it is a medieval, feudal superstition, that exists only when workers and peasants are kept in slavery by the landlords. He says that most Jews are workers, and therefore our brothers. He acknowledges that amongst the Jews there are capitalists, the bourgeois and kulaks, just as there are all of these amongst Russians. He states that this hatred against the Jews is being stirred up by the capitalists to divert attention away from who really is exploiting working people: capital!

He cries out several times ‘Shame upon the tsars’ for stoking hatred against the Jews, for stirring up pogroms, massacres and persecution.

Unruhe points out in his introduction to the speech that it was actually Lenin’s opponents, the tsars, who were anti-Semitic. This is solid, established fact. Nicholas II was viciously anti-Semitic himself, and believed firmly in the ‘Blood Libel’ – the poisonous myth that Jews killed Christian children and used their blood to make the matzo bread for Passover. One of the issues that discredited Nicholas II’s rule was his repeated attempt to prosecute a Jew, Beilis, on this charge, despite the most anti-Semitic of his ministers telling him that it was stupid and ridiculous.

And in opposition to the workers’ and revolutionary movements, there were the Black Hundreds. These were groups of extreme right-wing supporters of the traditional order, who were viciously anti-Semitic.

It’s obviously glaringly true that Lenin was ‘anti-business’. But saying that makes it appear as though it was just a matter of prejudice. It wasn’t. Russia’s working people and peasants at the time laboured in appalling conditions, with many on literal ‘starvation wages’. And although the serfs had been freed in the 1860s by Alexander I, their lords and masters still treated their workers as unfree slaves. There were cases where factory masters told their workers ‘We own you!’ Hence before the Bolshevik coup there were hundreds of strikes and peasant revolts up and down the Russian Empire. You can easily see why before Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power, there was a revolution that overthrew the Tsar, and the workers began electing left-wing parties like the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Trudoviks and Socialist Revolutionaries on to the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ soviets they set up to represent their own interests against the power of the capitalists.

As for the capitalists and business using anti-Semitism to divide working people of all nations, anti-Semitism in the West has been rightly discredited and regarded with loathing by the majority of people since the defeat of Nazism. But the right has used racism to try and attack the left and organised Labour. You can see it in the way the Tories have tried to stir up nationalist sentiment against Muslims and other ‘unassimilable’ immigrants, quite apart from the fearmongering about workers coming from elsewhere in the EU and eastern Europe.

I’m not a fan of Lenin. He created a very authoritarian system, which eventually led to the murderous tyranny of Stalin. But he was no anti-Semite, and his speech still remains a very relevant commentary on the political uses of racial hatred.

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RT Video of Teachers’ Demonstration in Washington against Betsy DeVos

October 17, 2017

Betsy DeVos is Trump’s education secretary. She’s a multimillionaire member of the family behind the Amway pyramid scheme, who has never attended a public, that is, state school in her life, and as a bright red corporate Republican, hates them with a passion. She, like her master, Trump, wants to privatise them, and turn them into charter schools. This means that they will be able to circumvent the state legislation regulating teaching standards, the pay and conditions of teaching staff, just like Academies in the UK. And in the case of America, they will also be outside the legislation outlawing the teaching of religion in schools.

Teachers in America, like those in Britain, are extremely worried and angry. This is a video by RT America of a demonstration by public school teachers outside the Hyatt Regency Bellevue Hotel in the state of Washington last Friday, 13th October 2017. The assembled educators have placards proclaiming ‘Stop Fascism’, protesting the privatisation of the American school system, and demanding an end to the road from school to prison. I don’t know the particular symbolism, but some of the female demonstrators lined up to wear 17th/18th century dress with red capes, holding placards, which read out ‘This nightmare will end’.

Mike and I both went to Anglican church school in Bristol, and I have absolutely nothing against the teaching of religion in schools nor the state supporting faith schools. I’m not a secularist. Religious education in British schools hasn’t prevented the increasing secularisation of society. Religion, and more recently the attempts of secular philosophy to grasp with the deep issues of humanity’s existence, morality and meaning, have been part of human culture and identity for centuries, if not millennia. It can also be argued that we need proper teaching about each others’ religious beliefs as society has become more plural and multicultural, so that children do not get distorted or bigoted pictures of our fellow citizens and their religious beliefs or secular philosophies.

But I’m also aware that American society and educational tradition is different, and that there are quite legitimate concerns that what these schools will push is not education, but indoctrination. Just as there are concerns over here about the extremist agenda pursued by some of the new faith schools established in the UK.

Mine and Mike’s mother was a junior school teacher for many years, and I did my first degree at an Anglican teacher training college, and so have some understanding from the inside of what teachers face. Contrary to what the Republicans and Conservatives would have us all believe, teachers as a rule don’t want to indoctrinate children with lesbian feminist cultural Marxist propaganda, although they do want to make sure that girls as well as boys reach their academic potential, and they do have a statutory duty tackle prejudice, including homophobia. But most of all, teachers want to stand in front of a White board and teach. And those I know, who’ve done it state that it’s immensely rewarding. They want to see their pupils do well, and become bright, inquiring members of society. They want to pass on the interest and passion they have for the subjects they teach, whether English, maths, science, history, whatever to the children in their care.

I’m perfectly aware that there are some terrible teachers. But the good far outnumber the bad. Teachers in this country have been appallingly treated by successive governments ever since Margaret Thatcher, and the attempts to privatise, or part-privatise schools through their transformation into academies and charter schools threaten educational standards, as well as the pay and conditions of the teaching staff themselves. This country has suffered from wave after wave of qualified teachers leaving the profession as conditions have become worse, demands increased, and in some cases even dangerous. There have been cases where teachers are assaulted. At the same time, like other public sectors workers, pay has been cut or frozen. They have not been given the support they need by the authorities, and in the case of the Republicans in America and Conservatives over here, they’ve actually been demonised and vilified. Over the decades newspapers like the Scum, the Heil and even the Torygraph have run article after article trying to scare the British public with stories about how left-wing teachers are indoctrinating Britain’s children. Under Cameron, we had Michael Gove whining about history wasn’t being taught properly. It should be more patriotic, with children taught the approved Tory version of the First World War, rather than Blackadder. As Mike pointed out in a series of articles he put up about it, this would be to distort history for the Tories’ own benefit. As well as mistaking a comedy, based on history, with history itself.

In the 1980s, my mother felt so strongly about the threat to British education that she and the other teachers in her union took industrial action. As did very many others. This was not done selfishly to maintain their own privileges at the expense of their children. It was also because they were very much concerned that unless strike action was taken, the Tories would continue to run down the British education system. As they have, and Blairite New Labour as well.

The transformation of America’s public schools into charter schools is undemocratic, and hasn’t just been done by the Republicans. Obama also pushed for it. And like Blair in England, schools were often taken out of the state sector and made charter schools against the wishes of the community, parents, teachers, community groups, pastors and clergy. The Black community in particular has been threatened by the fall in educational standards that they represent. A year or so ago the veteran civil rights organisation, the NAACP, came out against them. There are books over here about the failings of academy schools. One of the pamphlets I’ve written is against them. If you want a copy, just let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

But DeVos and the corporatists want a privatised school system both as a source of profit and because they would transform the school system from proper education, to a system of creating a passive workforce, who have enough knowledge to work for their corporate masters, but not enough to question, think for themselves, or even to be able to participate fully in art and culture. Art and music along with other humanities are being dropped from the curriculum in Britain as schools concentrate on the STEM subjects. And this is harming our children’s education.

C.P. Snow talked of the ‘two cultures’. He felt that there was a real gap between the arts and the sciences, so that the two formed distinct, separate cultures with little contact between each other. I think his fears, however true they were when he was writing, are somewhat exaggerated now. Science and mathematics has inspired much art down the centuries, as you can see from the weird paradoxes of Max Escher or the new scientific experiments that were painted during the 18th century by Wright of Derby. And scientists and science educators like the late Carl Sagan and even Richard Dawkins have expressed an extensive knowledge and keen appreciation of art.

This is why teachers are protesting against academies and charter schools: they want to preserve proper educational standards. They want to make sure that the poorest children have the same opportunity to achieve as the wealthiest. They want education to receive its proper status as a public good, not the preserve of the affluent, or simply another revenue stream for a grotty multinational like Murdoch’s. And although in Britain religion is taught, or supposed to be taught, in schools, there are safeguards and legislation against indoctrination. And teachers wish to preserve those as well.

So stand with your community teachers and teaching unions, and don’t let the Republicans in America or the Tories in Britain turn your school into an academy.

Black College Students Explain Why They’re Not Impressed with Trump’s Education Policy

September 9, 2016

This is another video from The Young Turks, and it’s part two of a continuing series in which their reporter, Eric Byler, examines Trump’s attempts to reach out to Black Americans. The blurb for this on YouTube notes that only two per cent of Black Americans support him. Given the massive way he’s appealed to White Supremacists and the disparaging way he refers to non-Whites, like Mexicans and Muslims, I’m not remotely surprised that Afro-Americans dislike him. In this piece, Byler talks to the students at North Carolina A & T State University. This is an historic Black college, which is credited, according to the blurb, with being the place that launched the sit-in movement that ended segregation.

Trump has asked Black Americans ‘What do you have to lose?’ by voting for him, promising that he’ll improve their educational opportunities through Charter schools. Those are the American equivalent of our Academies, and they’re about as popular. Like some of the Academies on this side of the Pond, they’ve been forced on communities, despite protests and demonstrations by teachers, parents, clergy and other members of their communities. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the oldest civil rights movement in America, recently demanded a moratorium on their establishment. Several of the pupils state very clearly that they don’t want state education to be disparaged and run down, but to be built up.

And what is most interesting of all is why so many Black Americans resent and are suspicious of Charter schools: they were first launched in the Deep South with the voucher system in the wake of desegregation, so Whites could take their children out of the now officially colour-blind public schools, so that they wouldn’t have to mix with Blacks.

Here’s the video:

I’m posting this as we have the same problems with the promotion of Academies in Britain, although that seems to have gone by the wayside with May’s announcement that all schools will be able to apply to become grammar schools. The experience of Black Americans with voucher schools in the US adds an extra dimension to some of the fears articulated by the critics of Academies and faith schools over here that such schools are divisive and will cause greater disruption to communities.

My sympathies are solidly with those of the students interviewed by Byler in this video. The state system in this country has been deliberately trashed and run down by successive administrations ever since Thatcher. Academies, by and large, are no better than state schools. Where they have succeeded, it’s because they’ve had an enormous amount of money thrown at them, often far more than the budget of the Local Education Authority for all the schools in its care. Any school would include, if they had that kind of money thrown at them. Far from demonstrating the superior results of private sponsorship and investment, they simply show the need for a properly funded state system.

Secular Talk on Pro-Slavery Textbook Used Today in Arizona Academy School

August 18, 2016

Unfortunately, school textbooks presenting a rosy, positive view of slavery for American school children do not appear to be a thing of the past. In this piece from 2014, Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski talks about the scandal over a couple of books used in the state’s oldest charter school, the Heritage Academy. They’re written by an activist, Cleon Scousy, and called The Five Thousand Year Leap and The Making of America. The secularist activist group, United Citizens for the Separation of Church and State, have complained that it pushes Christian nation propaganda and other Christian religious teachings. It’s been embraced by the largest of the 14,000 or so Tea Party organisations, which has hailed it as ‘a handbook of Tea Party ideals’. Kulinski compares this with the outrage that would be generated by right-wing media organisations, like Fox News, if a left-wing, progressive text book was produced, and was welcomed in similar glowing terms as ‘a handbook of progressive ideals’ from a left-wing organisation. The right-wing radio and TV host, Glen Beck, has also endorsed it, which Kulinski also points out should be a red flag to progressive activists and lawmakers. Beck’s extremely right-wing. He’s known for hysterical rants and breaking down in tears, because atheist pagan Socialists are coming for American freedom, and are about to put all good Christians in concentration camps. He’s stunningly bonkers.

Critics of the books have stated that it presents a very racist view of American history. Covering the American Civil War, it argues that slavery was beneficial for the slaves, and that racism only began with the incursion of Northern troops and their demands for equality for the slaves. Kulinski dispels the idea that this could just be a hostile interpretation of an ambiguous text by quoting a passage from the book that states that if coloured children ran about naked, it was from choice, and when the White boys were forced to put on shoes and go to school, they often envied the freedom of their ‘coloured playmates’. The book also blames the North for the Civil War, calling it ‘the War of Northern Aggression’. Kulinski is naturally outraged, and responds by saying that this is well beyond what is or should be acceptable, stating that perhaps the American Civil War should be ‘the War of Slave-Masters’ Aggression on their Slaves’, and pointing out that the North was justified in coming to put an end to it.

Kulinski argues that books like this are handicapping America’s children. By presenting such false views, they help to create a situation where America won’t get the patents her industries demand and the technical and scientific advances the country needs, and where its infrastructure will fall apart, as it’s doing now. America’s heading for the kind of dystopia portrayed in the film Idiocracy, where everyone in a future America is monumentally thick.

I don’t agree with all of his Kulinski’s comments. I went to a church school, and so don’t see anything particularly wrong with schools offering a Christian education to parents, who want it. We also had some excellent science teachers, so I can honestly say we were not stopped from appreciating science or studying it, including evolution. But this is a much more controversial issue in America, where Creationism is far more popular than over here.

But Kulinski is nevertheless right about textbooks like these damaging children’s education. It presents a racist view of American history as normal and beneficial, and so prevents the development of a truly just, multiracial society based on equal rights and justice for all, regardless of gender or skin colour. And extreme right-wing politics, which stress the importance of private enterprise over the state, are damaging the nation’s infrastructure through lack of investment.

I find it truly horrifying that such a view could still be taught now, in the 21st century, and am worried that some of the right-wing nutters over here will try to import such racism into our political discourse.

Black Civil Rights Organisation Wants Moratorium on Academy Schools in America

August 18, 2016

The Black civil rights organisation, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) has attacked charter schools and demanded a moratorium on them. In this video from the Real News, the anchor, Jaisal Noor, talks to Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, a teacher, educationalist and blogger, who’s the head of the leadership in education programme at one of the American universities about the NAACP’s call for a ban. The charter schools are the American equivalent of our academy schools. They were introduced in 2001, and began to expand massively after Obama’s election in 2008 as part of his ‘Race to the Top’ education programme. The NAACP object to these schools on the grounds that they remove public control, enforce segregation and have punitive educational regimes. They also draw a comparison between the proliferation of these schools and the predatory sub-prime mortgage market which was partly responsible for the near collapse of the banking system in 2008.

This isn’t the first time the NAACP has criticised charter schools. In 2010 they made a statement that rather than promoting the expansion of these schools, more money should be given to improving existing public (state) schools in urban America serving Black communities. In 2014 the NAACP further condemned charter schools as part of the privatisation of education of education, and the wider privatisation movement. The demand for the moratorium on these schools was passed this year by a meeting of more than 2200 of the organisation’s delegates. Heilig states that this is a very reasonable position as when they were first introduced, charter schools promised more freedom and more accountability. They have instead gained more freedom and less accountability.

Noor responds by stating that for many Black parents in cities like New York and Baltimore, charter schools represent some hope of improving their children’s education over the dire state schools in their areas, but there are long queues of people trying to get in. He quotes a Black Democrat politician, Shivar Jefferies of Democrats for Education Reform as stating that they should be concentrating on fixing what is broken, and expanding what works. Heilig states that he has offered to debate Jefferies about charter schools in California or New York. Jefferies first accepted, and then declined. Heilig states that when you examine the statistics, the supposed advantages of charter schools melt away. He does agree with Jefferies, however, on the wider point that society has failed Black, Latino, Native American and other poor students deliberately. He states that American society has decided that ‘inequality is OK’. Where Heilig and Jefferies differ is in the way this is to be tackled. He points out that there are big corporations, like Wall Street, the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation and many more behind the private control of education. Heilig says that this is where he differs with Jefferies. He and the others in NAACP would like community schools, and community-based charters, district charters and intergovernmental charters. He points out that people are upset with the creation of charter schools, because the free market system they are trying to use to improve schools – he gives the example of the ‘better house you buy, the better the school’, is the very system that has damaged the educational system in the first place.

He states that the key to change and improvement is offering more democratic control for parents in their local schools through community-based programmes. Heilig makes the point that if you look at the polls of what people want, they want less testing, higher quality teachers, and better courses. Those require resources. But the Supreme Court in Texas, however, decided that the $25,000 differences between classes for rich and poor is acceptable at school. This means millions of dollars in difference at the district level.

Noor also asks him about the statistics showing that children at charter schools perform extremely well, and so therefore charter schools are an educational improvement that should be further implemented. Heilig points out that there are some state schools that are also doing a great job. He also makes the point that the 2009 Credo study showed that 89 per cent of students at public schools performed exactly the same as those in state schools. Shivar Jefferies and the others in favour of charters schools don’t like that study, and prefer to quote another Credo study from 2015. This study, however, showed that in charter schools Latinos do 0.008 per cent better in reading, and Black 0.05 per cent. He states that the difference in performance is almost negligible. Furthermore, there are other methods in improving performance that are far more effective. These methods, which include reducing class size, can improve educational performance by between 1000 to 4000 per cent. He states that there’s no secret to what works, and you don’t need to go to countries with high standards in education, like Finland and Singapore to see that. You only have to go ‘across the tracks’ to rich neighbourhoods to see what resources are given to their schools, to see the kind of improvements that have to be made to the schools in poor neighbourhoods.

I’ve reblogged this because this debate is clearly very relevant to what’s happening over here with the academies Blair set up and which Thicky Nicky Morgan wanted to make universal. The system’s critics over here have pointed out that they are a part privatisation of education. The backers in Britain, however, tend to be second-rate businessmen. The leading businesses don’t want to touch them because they’re divisive. They are also very highly selective. A much larger proportion of students are expelled, or effectively expelled, from these schools, often for very trivial reasons. These frequently tend to be the poorer, or less intelligent students, the children the school would have problems with getting them through the exams. So they try to get rid of them by expelling them for supposed infractions of school rules. And discipline is also extremely strict. A few years ago a television documentary on the Vardy schools, set up by an evangelical Christian businessman, had humiliated pupils by refusing them to go to the toilet, even when they were in desperate need, and not allowing the girls to leave to change their sanitary towels. And there are also concerns that they’re socially divisive, especially as many of them are now under the control of the church or religious organisations.

Britain tends to look across the Atlantic to try to see what the Americans are doing in certain issues. This demand by the NAACP for a moratorium on charters/ academies, so that society can take stock of their impact, might have an effect in encouraging Black educationalists over here to follow and further demand a halt to their expansion in Britain. This would not only improve conditions for Blacks, but also for the poor White students that are also falling behind.

Vox Political on Thicky Nikki’s Plan to Stop People Protesting Against School Sell-Offs

March 19, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also posted up a piece commenting on a report on the Politics.co.uk blog that the education minister, ‘Thicky’ Nikki Morgan, is introducing more legal reforms to make it difficult for parents and other interested local people to prevent their schools being taken over and transformed into academies.

I’m not surprised she’s done this. The Tories’ education reforms have never been about raising standards or empowering people, no matter how much hot air Thatcher spouted about it when she was trying to smash the control of Local Education Authorities in the 1980s. It’s always been about giving private education companies the right to make a good profit from them, regardless of quality. I can still remember how Thicky Nikki refused to answer Charlie Stayt’s questions on Breakfast TV when she was talking about Cameron’s renewed campaign to push more schools into becoming academies. Stayt asked her how many academies had had to be taken back into state management. The answer, if I recall correctly, was 25. Morgan didn’t answer, but just continued to bluster about how unfair it was that parents and pupils should continue to suffer from poor standards when their school was being blocked from becoming an academy. To his credit, Stayt carried on asking the question, and after she still didn’t answer, said, ‘You know how many.’ She does. That’s why she didn’t answer the question. And so do we.

And it’s exactly the same over in America. The equivalent of the academy system over there are the Charter schools. The Republicans hate the public school system with a passion, ostensibly because of its secularism. No religious worship or teaching is allowed in school, though I believe that the constitution also forbids the opposite: you can’t indoctrinate children with atheism either. But that’s not the whole reason they hate the public (state) school system. They hate it because it’s provided by the state, and not run for profit by a private corporation. I posted up a little while ago a video I found on Youtube reporting on how local authorities and private corporations in many American states had succeeded in privatising the local public schools in direct contravention of the wishes of the parents and community. There had been demonstrations against them by parents, teachers, and respected members of the community, including clergy. All to no avail. It’s happening in America, and Thicky Nikki wants more of it to happen over here.

Paradoxically, in this the Conservatives are far more right wing that D’Annunzio’s proto-Fascists at Fiume. Article 8 of the statelet’s constitution guaranteed citizens the right to state education, as well as range of welfare benefits, leisure activities and legal protections. It stated:

The Constitution guarantees to all citizens of both sexes: primary instruction in well-lighted and healthy schools; physical training in open-air gymnasiums, well-equipped; paid work with a fair minimum living wage; assistance in sickness, infirmity, and involuntary unemployment; old age pensions; the enjoyment of property legitimately obtained; inviolability of the home; ‘habeas corpus’; compensation for injuries in case of judicial errors or abuse of privacy.

I don’t know how seriously D’Annunzio’s government took all this. After all, the previous article, 7, began with a liberal statement promising freedom of conscience and association:

Fundamental liberties, freedom of thought and of the Press, the right to hold meetings and to form associations are guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution.

As this was the first to be violated when Mussolini took power, and D’Annunzio himself ended up keeping silent after Musso gave him a pension and various other privileges, I doubt that personal freedom rated very highly in his estimation either. Much of this was in any case inherited from the liberal Italian state Mussolini despised, and from Socialist doctrines of the regime’s enemies. Italy had been providing state education to its children from the early 19th century onwards, long before Britain did so, although few working class children were able to take it up due to poverty and the constraints of work. But it’s certainly an indictment of this government, that those liberties which even D’Annunzio’s storm-troopers had to recognise, are discarded by them.

Thom Hartmann and Randi Weingarten of RT Discuss US Charter Schools

February 1, 2016

This is really interesting. It’s a report on the campaign to privatise education in America by Thom Hartmann, the anchor of the news show Screwed on the RT network. He and his guest, Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, discuss the way the public (state) school system in the US is being run down, and replaced by privately-run charter schools under the school voucher system that allows state funding to go to the private sector. Weingarten states that in areas where the state schools have been replaced by these private schools, the education is not better. Weingarten also makes the excellent point that in areas where the public schools were shut down, because they were failing, so were the private charter schools. but these escaped being axed. Nor are these schools less expensive, and in fact there have been numerous cost overruns. One area the scheme was supposed to cost only $9 million, but this ballooned to $40 million.

These closures have been pushed through by unelected school boards against the wishes of parents and teachers. There have been campaigns against these closures by the local communities, whose members have even included local clergy. These have been brushed aside.

Moreover, there is concern about the textbooks used in the new private schools. These include material provided by the libertarian John Stossel organisation, which teach Creationism, Hippies were dirty and that celebrate the KKK. Weingarten admits that these schools had some advantages – they were safer, and had more interaction between students and staff, but these advantages could and should be introduced into the public schools without those schools closing.

I’m reblogging this as this is exactly what is going in Britain with the expansion of the academies. And just as the Americans would like to privatise the schools and hand them over to John Stossel and Bill Gates, so the Tories in Britain would like to hand them over to the private academy chains and media moguls like Rupert Murdoch. And just as the charter schools in America don’t perform any better than state schools, so many of the academies over here don’t perform any better, and some actually much worse, than state schools. But you won’t hear that from the Tories’ Thicky Nikki Morgan, who didn’t even want to tell the BBC’s anchor, Charlie Stayt, how many academies were taken back into state management last year. She just ploughed on with her prepared speech about how dreadful state schools were, and the need for efficient private management.

There is a determined campaign to wreck state education on both sides of the Atlantic, conducted by some of the same people. This must be stopped, and proper state education and high standards restored.

Gove Versus Reality

September 28, 2013

I’ve reblogged a piece from The Uphill Struggle and one of the comments on it criticising Michael Gove’s contemptuous attitude to the profession and pointing out just how hard teachers really work. This was in response to Gove’s plan to increase their workload, showing that he doesn’t have any appreciation for the true amount of work teachers already put in. The Uphill Struggle herself is a teacher, and the comment I reblogged was from a teaching assistant. My posts can be found here, at https://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/an-open-letter-to-michael-gove/ and here, https://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/a-learning-support-assistant-on-the-lack-of-government-support-given-to-them/ respectively.

I also found this short film, Michael Gove Versus Reality on Youtube. The film is only 6.44 minutes long. In that short space of time, it manages to refute every aspect of Gove’s education policy. It disproves his selective use of statistics, which ostensibly show that Britain’s educational performances is declining. According to the Ontario professor shown in the film, actually Britain’s educational performance had improved. The apparent decline is simply due to the number of countries included in the statistics doubling. It also refutes the Tories’ claim that academy schools and the effective privatisation of education automatically leads to an increase in quality. Gove cites Sweden has one example, but any increase in educational standards there has been accompanied by concerns about greater social exclusion and increasing division. Gove also tries to cite American Charter Schools as also examples of better educational performance through schools, which are independent of the public (state) school system. Yet the statistics there show that 47 per cent of Charter Schools are no different in their educational results from state schools. Indeed 37 per cent of Charter Schools are actually worse than those in the state sector.

The video also shows that, despite Gove’s rhetoric about the nobility of the profession, teachers actually feel that the minister does not respect and value them, and the majority of the profession feel demoralised because of Gove’s negative attitude. It considers that the true motive behind Gove’s reforms are not a concern to raise standards, but to lower teachers’ wages and working conditions. Of course the true motive is profit. He wishes to privatise education, so that it can be run for profit by private companies. Gove has challenged the teaching unions with the accusation that their opposition to his reforms are ideological. This shows that the opposite is true: it is Gove’s reforms that are ideological. The video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6PRKaNVvUc. I also include it here below.

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Regarding Gove’s claim that the academies somehow outperform British state schools, in some parts of Britain the opposite appears to be demonstrably true. In Somerset all the failing schools are academies. Some of this may simply come from the fact that the system was introduced by Labour to transform failing state schools. The point remains that if this was the originally intention, then it has not been fulfilled. The schools are still failing despite their independence from state management. I’ve no doubt a similar situation also prevails in other parts of the UK as well.