Friday, October 31, 2008

Studs dead at 96

Author-radio host-actor-activist and Chicago symbol Louis "Studs" Terkel died today at his Chicago home at age 96. At his bedside was a copy of his latest book, "P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening," scheduled for a November release.

Here is a piece Studs wrote The Kappan in April, 2006. I re-published it on my old SmallTalk blog:

A Small Space of Sanity

By Studs Terkel

Schoolchildren should learn all they can about the people who stood up for humanity against the war-makers and the powerful. I’m talking about the abolitionists and the suffragettes, the Wobblies and labor organizers, the freedom riders and civil rights marchers, and the antiwar activists. Students should learn about Burr Tillstrom, one of the geniuses of early television, who created the Kuklapolitans and the show “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.” They were puppets, little rags that came to life in Burr’s hands: Ollie was the one-toothed dragon; Buelah Witch, the outspoken and independent feminist who always refused to ride her broom sidesaddle; and Kukla, the round-headed enigma. And they became the inspiration for Jim Henson’s Muppets. The Kuklapolitans lived in our world, but they created a small space of sanity within it — humane, tender, gentle, filled with humor and good will.

Burr Tillstrom graduated from Senn High School in Chicago, a place the current mayor wants to transform into a military academy, the exact opposite of the world Burr Tillstrom imagined. There’s a lot to do to realize Tillstrom’s vision, and opposing the militarization of our schools is a part of it. If there’s one thing students need to know about patriotism, it’s that the only way to love our country is to care about the humanity of the people who live in it.

My other blog...

Under the bus

bevy of wing-nut bloggers are going absolutely wing-nuts over my blog. Not this one so much, although they have wildly increased SmallTalk's readership (a shout-out to All-American Blogger, Maggie’s Notebook, someone named Steve Diamond, and all my new wing-nut readers). Rather they're all chattering about the one I ran for a while on I guess they don't have all that much to talk about these days and not much of an audience.

They call it,
“Obama’s official campaign website” but actually anyone can blog on it. You don’t need official permission and there is no monitoring or censoring. Wow, what a democratic idea! I enjoyed it. But the problem I had, was running two blogs at once. And since I had way more readers here on SmallTalk, I moved all my blogging over here.

The wing-nuts went postal, claiming that Obama had "censored" me and thrown me “under the bus” to hide our long, close relationship and the fact that Obama is a secret
socialist, terrorist, muslim, Annenberg/Klonsky money funneler. This bogus story is now repeated on every wing-nut blog site across the U.S.--over and over again. With each posting, a little more is added.

Hey, did you know? Klonsky and Obama shared the same office? Yes, and President Obama is going to appoint him Secretary of Social Justice.

As you can tell from the polls, this bogus campaign strategy isn't really working. But at least the nut jobs are persistent.


Runnin' on empty...

Headline, not from The Onion, but from today’s Sun-Times:

Obama would fill courts with ACLU zombies

Ah, perfect for Halloween.

Or how about this From UPI:

Poll: 1 in 4 Texans say Obama is Muslim

My mind has just slipped into the gutter thinking, what else do 1 in 4 Texans do?

Here's my favorite bit of anti-Obama educational paranoia:

From Sara Lester at Intense Debate:

“If Barack Obama becomes president, he and his cohorts have every intention of forcing our children into public schools to be taught "social justice," i.e. that because God created them with light skin, they are inherently evil murderers.”

Yes you little light-skinned devils. Go to the board and write the words social-justice 100 times, or no pizza for you.

Another reason McCain is losing Florida

Parent protests rocked Miami's Edison High this year

If you’re watching the news, you will see images of long, long early-voting lines in the key state of Florida. By all accounts, this is a good sign for Obama who was trailing badly in this state but now has pulled slightly ahead in the polls. If McCain loses Florida, there's little hope for him of winning this election.

Why has the momentum shifted?

The NYT and Boston Globe get some of the reasons right: 1) Obama has put boots on the ground, some 600 paid organizers to manage 160,000 volunteers. This is a state in which Obama didn’t even campaign during the primaries and where the Democratic Party traditionally has had a weak organization compared to Republicans. It’s also one which the McCain organization took for granted; 2) the housing crisis which has mangled Florida’s economy under the watch of two Republican governors, including Bush brother Jeb; 3) McCain and Gov. Christ are at each other’s throat over McCain’s choice of Palin over the more moderate Christ; and 4) the state’s once-powerful coalition of right-wing Cubans and Jewish retirees, which heavily supported Bush in 2000 and 2004, is in disarray. For many in the Cuban community, the economic crisis is trumping U.S. policy towards Cuba, as a voting issue, according to the Miami Herald.

But from my own work in the Sunshine State during the past seven years, I can tell you another reason for the growing grassroots support building for Obama . It’s a reason the national press hasn’t yet picked up on. It’s in large measure a response to the dismal failure of Republican education policies, especially NCLB and its testing madness which has hit here especially hard and caused havoc in many Florida districts.

Schools that have been deemed failures under NCLB’s grading system have been getting A or B grades under the former governor Jeb Bush’s grading system. The life-or-death FCAT exam has resulted in tens of thousands of kids, especially in heavily-populated Dade and Broward counties, being held back, unable to graduate on time and ultimately dropping out.

Florida has some of the largest high schools in the nation, many holding as many as 3,000 to 5,000 students. The state also has the nation’s highest dropout rate. No coincidence there.

Education privateers run wild down here and charter schools are handed out to patronage clients like Halloween candy. Then there's Neil Bush’s great Florida schools software swindle using his family connections and political clout to push his Ignite Company, which bilked schools out of millions of dollars.

Parents are upset and are taking it out on the Republicans. There is also widespread anger in Miami’s black community over the pushing-out of Rudy Crew as schools superintendent.

In the final analysis, it may be that these smoldering education issues are what push Obama over the top in a close race.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thanks, Joe Williams

Damn, I guess I can't call DFER's Joe Williams a Republicrat twit any more. Joe shows some real heart and courage and comes to my defense against the latest wave of red-baiting-Obama attacks, in his latest blog post, "In defense of a Klonsky."

Thanks, Joe.

It wasn't so long ago that Joe was threatening to open a can of whoop-ass on both me and my brother. He probably backed off so he wouldn't scuff his wing-tips. Now I owe him a beer.

It’s not a crisis for everybody

The Bush/Cheney boys at Exxon Mobil post the biggest quarterly profit ever.


Charters’ right-wing threatens Obama

Yes, there is a wing-nut faction within the charter school movement and they are among the most rabid of the anti-Obama attack dogs. They’re called the Center for Educational ReformJeanne Allen. The CER board is a collection of school profiteers, including Edison’s Chris Whittle, headed by John Danielson from Chartwell (Rod Paige’s consulting group), educational free-marketeer John Chubb and Kevin Chavous from the D.C. lobbying group of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP (also a charter school operator in Chicago).

CER started out as a pro-voucher group, but like many on the right, once they saw that vouchers were a dead issue, they shifted their focus over to charter schools as a way to attack teacher unions and to promote privatized school management.

Obama supports charter schools. But he opposes vouchers and doesn’t make a fetish out of charters. He’s an advocate for strong charter school accountability and supports teacher unions and collective bargaining rights for teachers. That's enough to make him a target for the CER.

Here, they threaten to cut Obama off, for what they say is his unwillingness, if elected, to “punish” state governors who favor strict accountability of charter schools. If he won't do it, CER calls on the Democratic Party to cut off funds for Obama’s campaign:

He'll also have to show us that he's willing to punish Governors like Ohio's Ted Strickland who has worked hard to stop charters in their tracks in his state. If the standard bearer for a party allows their own party leaders in states to take a pathetic stand on reform, their access to the party's benefits should be cut off.

Maybe that demand won't pan out so well.

Hunting down 'social-justice' teachers

For me, the ideal of teaching social-justice goes back some 45 years to the Civil Rights Movement and the Freedom Schools created by great educators like Ella Baker, Septima Clark, and Myles Horton. Their tradition of educating to empower the disenfranchised, to teach students to think critically, to participate in a democratic society, and challenge an unjust, racially segregated school system, has been carried on in recent times by educators like Deborah Meier, Bob Moses, Asa Hilliard, Pedro Noguera, William Ayers, Jonathan Kozol and Gloria Ladson-Billings, to name but a few. Furthermore, dozens of small and charter schools are now using social-justice teaching as a focus, to engage otherwise disinterested students and connect them with literature, mathematics and science curriculum.

But Education Week’s Kathleen Kennedy Manzo (“Election Renews Controversy Over Social-Justice Teaching”) reports moves afoot by right-wing think tankers like Sol Stern, to discredit and even ban social-justice teaching. Stern, Berkeley new-leftist turned professional ultra-rightist, has piled on to the McCain/Palin guilt-by-association bandwagon to link Ayers and Obama. In a City Journal piece, Stern even equates S-J teacher Ayers with Joseph Stalin.

Ayers, says Stern, “is not a school reformer. He is a school destroyer.” Stern, whose job at the Institute includes hunting down and “exposing” teachers like those who attended this N.Y. mathematics conference, never specifies exactly which schools S-J teachers have "destroyed." Instead he accuses these math teachers with “trashing the American system.”

Stern is not alone in the war on social justice. Recently-appointed asst. sec. of education, Williamson Evers, rode into Bush’s D.O.E. on his anti-S-J credentials.

Manzo writes:

Social-justice lessons are rarely taken from textbooks. They generally reflect multiple perspectives, particularly those of disadvantaged groups; question government policies and actions; and incorporate content and activities that encourage students to share their own experiences and participate actively.

I’ll leave it to folks like Stern and Evers to explain how this is “Stalinism” or the “trashing America.” It just sounds like great teaching to me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Now me and Barack are part of a “coven of change-agents.”

'Ne'er-do-wells & pick-pockets'

That’s the latest from the other McCarthy, writing for the gullible at National Review. McCarthy is once again warning his shrinking flock that Obama is out to “socialize” America through the “redistribution of the wealth” (no, he doesn’t mean by taking $850 billion from the taxpayers and giving it to Wall Street bankers). Now that the soon-to-be-prez and I (“communist educator”) have launched our new “coven of change-agents,” our first agenda point, according to the other McCarthy, is to champion the “right of society’s ne’er-do-wells to pick the pockets of its achievers through the coercive power of government.” Ne’er-do-wells, of course, is McCarthy’s term for the poor, the unemployed and the homeless.

Even worse, our coven advocates for “social justice.” Can you believe it?

If any of you are interested in joining our new coven, you can contact me here at SmallTalk, or more importantly go out and vote by Nov. 4th.


Julie at PURE writes:

Two of my favorite writer-colleagues take complementary but stylistically rather distinct approaches to advising the next president on education reform. In a Sun-Times essay, John Simmons, of Strategic Learning Initiatives, reminds our soon-to-be new leader of the strong body of school reform research in Chicago: “There is no better place than Chicago to find the best ideas for how to improve this nation's school.” Read the rest

Was the Annenberg Challenge a “total failure”?

Campaign of fear impacts school research

Here’s how badly the Ownership Society types have politicized school research and evaluation. Check out Andrew J. Coulson’s, “The Wreck of the Annenberg” at National Review. Coulson is a honcho at the Cato Institute. They’re the ones who invented the term Ownership Society and sold it to Bush to use as the banner hanging over his current global economic collapse. Too bad, he can’t pin that TOTAL FAILURE on me or Bill Ayers.

But Coulson does write off the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) as a “total failure” making Ayers and Obama the main culprits. He cites no evidence, no evaluations, no experts—nothing to confirm his “total failure” summary. While it’s true that Annenberg didn’t markedly raise Chicago’s test scores—no single reform effort ever does-- the very evaluation from the highly-respected Consortium on Chicago School Research, which Coulson refers to in his hatchet job on Annenberg, shows several positive gains for the CAC. Coulson chooses to ignore this side of the report for political expediency and ideological reasons. He writes:

It failed not just in Chicago, but around the country. The first problem was that many of the “model” schools and districts lacked results worthy of replication. The final report of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, for instance, noted that, overall, students in its model schools had learned no more than students in regular public schools.

To Coulson and the neocons, reform of any public institution is always a failed proposition. Why? Because they don’t believe public anything is reform-able. Secondly, as long as you don’t have to cite any real research, take into account any real goals or standards for the reform, or document anything you say, you can call anything a total failure and no one can really argue with you.

Coulson never explains exactly how Ayers/Obama caused this global total failure of Republican Walter Annenberg’s pet project, stuck as they both were, in Chicago. But that’s another matter.

For one thing, the CAC to its credit, never even called for replicating their “model schools.” That’s not what the initiative was about. The Chicago project was originally aimed at seeing how time, size and teacher isolation factored into school improvement. There was a small group of so-called Breakthrough Schools which were given extra resources and tried more focused and intensive reform efforts. But they were hardly models—more like experiments- and only a small part of the CAC initiative. And while this small group of Breakthrough Schools (not replicable models) didn’t immediately (in the one year they were measured) boost test scores, they did, according to the Consortium study, improve the “student learning climate” and lay the foundation for “subsequent development of instruction…” in those schools.

So how could Coulson read the very same study and conclude that Annenberg was a “total failure?” Answer? He couldn’t. He’s making the shit up.

Besides, Coulson isn’t really concerned with program evaluation. His case is ideological. Bill Ayers, ‘60s radical, was somehow involved with Annenberg. So was his terrorist-pal Obama. Ergo, the program was not only destined to become a “total failure” but was an omen of things to come when socialist Obama becomes president. His entire program for K-12 education will supposedly become a replication of this old, totally-failed Annenberg Challenge where the kids won’t learn any more stuff than they do in regular schools.

Isn’t this the same kind of counterfeit program evaluation we’ve been seeing for the past eight years coming out of the DOE, whether it be of the ideologically-bound Reading First program or of NCLB’s testing madness? The whole purpose of program evaluation is to help us draw lessons from various efforts to improve teaching and public education. But if you enter the process with the mindset that there’s really nothing to be learned and when you’re only goal is to discredit a political candidate, this is what you end up with.

Finally, why the deafening silence from CAC leaders themselves and from the researchers at the Consortium in the face of this assault on their own research? Is the fear campaign working?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Next secretary of education

While wing-nut Phyllis Schlafly predicts that Bill Ayers will be the next secretary of education under President Obama, other nut-bags say no—it’s Homeland Security for Bill. The DFER hedge-fund Democrats are praying for a pro-voucher type like Michelle Rhee. New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman would be a good pick. He’s one of the architects and main backers of the Smaller Learning Communities Initiative. The entire Chicago school reform and charter school crowd already has their bags packed, ready to take staff jobs in D.C. when homey and fellow Harvard alum Arne Duncan is chosen. But I hope they haven’t plopped down the security deposits on their apartments yet.

My prediction is Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a middle-of-the-road Democrat who’s made education funding her biggest priority as governor. Sebelius was recently appointed to a four-year term on the National Assessment Governing Board by Sec. Spellings and is a strong public school advocate. She led the battle against her own state school board (called them “an embarrassment”) over their support for teaching creationism in the state's public schools.

I guess I’ll have to write her in on the PREAPrez poll.

What is the Dallas school board up to?

First they lay off hundreds of teachers and staff, supposedly because of budget shortfalls and central office mismanagement. Now they’re running ads offering to hire 60 new teachers. Another bureaucratic screw-up? Or is this a way to hire teachers on the cheap and do an end run around the union contract?

McCarthyism Redux

Menachem Rosensaft, a lawyer in New York City, is the Founding Chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. The current Republican red-baiting attacks on Obama/Ayers bring back memories for Rosensaft, of Maine’s Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith and her historic repudiation of the vicious character assassinations hurled by Senator Joseph McCarthy against countless Americans more than 50 years ago.

The more popular epithets emanating from present-day Republican apparatchiks and the other flacks associated with the 2008 McCain campaign are "terrorist," "Muslim," and "anti-American," but their intent is the same as the red scare labels used so effectively by their McCarthyite role models: to depict their political adversaries generally, and Barack Obama specifically, as somehow dangerous, subversive, even evil.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Gotham is still standing...

Ayers speaks in New York

The Times reports today that Chicago educator Bill Ayers spoke "without fanfare" at a N.Y.C. symposium on educational justice.

On Sunday, after Mr. Ayers was introduced to an audience of about 50 people who had bought tickets to the event, the moderator, the WNYC radio host Leonard Lopate, asked, “Does this mean I can’t run for president?”

“It means you can win,” Mr. Ayers said in response.

And he called upon educators to establish curriculums that help equip students to be active in society.“In a democracy, we educate for citizenship,” he said. “Not for obedience of authority, but for participation.”

The city is reportedly still standing, in the wake of Bill's talk. The National Guard was NOT mobilized. But the stock market has crashed.

Teacher unions getting out the vote

Teachers’ unions around the country have shifted into high gear in the countdown to the presidential election next week, and nowhere is the fervor more evident than in the battleground states.In Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, affiliates of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have been campaigning with every tool at their disposal, including newsletters, fliers, postcards, and volunteers to reach out to more than 4 million members and their families...

Read the rest of this Edweek story here.

Another look at Renaissance 2010

Well, 2010 is only a little more than a year away. Will Daley/Duncan’s Renaissance 2010 initiative to transform public education in Chicago through more standardized testing, closing neighborhood schools, militarization, and the privatization of school management, be hailed as a great success? Will Ren10 seal Mayor Daley’s legacy as the “Education Mayor” and slide CEO Arne Duncan into a cabinet post in President Obama’s administration? Not likely.

Chicago’s high schools are still the basket case they were when Daley took over the school system in June of 1995. Things have gotten so bad that Daley/Duncan appear to have given up on real reforms and on supports for teachers in classrooms, and are now resorting to gimmicks like pay-for-grades. Huge dropout rates, falling test scores, a school and youth violence epidemic, which can in some small part be directly traced to Ren10 school-closing policies, and lackluster results from frantic charter-school replications, all are leading to the same conclusion.

Of course it’s not only Daley/Duncan’s failed policies that are at fault . Disastrous federal polices like NCLB and Reading First, the lack of adequate school funding, deteriorating economic and social conditions in the community, and teachers union wracked with internal division, have all contributed.


One positive that may come out of the politically-motivated attack on Chicago’s decade-old Annenberg Challenge, is a more balanced look at school reform in general.

Why is every short-term, high-impact, urban school reform initiative, like Annenberg or Renaissance 2010, ultimately written off as a failure when test scores don’t spike? How has mayoral control of big-city schools worked? What about superstar superintendents like Arne Duncan, Paul Vallas, John Deasey, and Michelle Rhee, using Eli Broad’s business model of sub-contracting schooling out to private companies?

Claremont prof Charles Taylor Kerchner, writing in Edweek, “What Can We Learn from L.A.?”, takes a stab answering these questions and makes some interesting observations about the short and long-term dynamics of school change, in the process.

The myth of politics-free education gave way to the reality of interest groups. Even though sponsors of reform projects talk of driving out destructive politics, which usually translates into diminishing the power of the teachers’ union, they find that they have re-created a world full of competing interests. Philadelphia’s attempt to escape urban politics by replacing the elected school board provided only a temporary respite, and that city’s diverse-provider model of education introduced for-profit and nonprofit school operators as new political interest groups. New York City, Chicago, and to a degree Los Angeles have recoupled public education and mayoral politics.

But in the end, Kerchner plays it safe, keeps it vague and never really tells us what it is we can learn from L.A.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

'McCarthy's Ghost'

Dr. Rudolfo (Rudy) Acuna is an historian and a professor at my alma mater, Cal State-Northridge. He’s perhaps the foremost scholar of Chicano Studies and the author of the seminal work of Chicano history, Occupied America: A history of Chicanos. Yesterday La Prensa San Diego ran Acuna’s essay, “The Ghost of Joe McCarthy” :

McCain should know better he lived through the forties and the fifties and knows the evil of smearing someone through guilt by association, using the patriotism as a shield. They rationalize that the smears are justified because they love America. Those of us who lived through the McCarthy Era remember the self righteousness of patriotic Americans who manufactured half-truths and outright lies; we also remember the lives that were destroyed.There is little doubt that McCain/Palin have intentionally smeared Obama. As in the case of the Iraq war, associations are made between him and terrorist. He is a Muslim! Obama is foreign.Take the incessant harping on William Ayers who today is a respected professor working for school reform in a city that is heavily black and Latino…


Butch & Sundance

Joe Biden, speaking in West Virginia:

John McCain is now attacking the Bush budget and fiscal policies. Folks, this is as crazy as the Sundance Kid attacking Butch Cassidy! They were in this together."
'Toothless bloggers...'

Mary Mapes, blogging on Huff

…And yet for all McCain's effort, for all his compromise, for all the cost of turning his back on what we thought was his personal value system -- it's not working. Americans aren't responding to the old plays -- the fake fears, the faux outrage, the conservatives who yell "Communist" at the news cameras, the pompous right-wing bloggers who once held such sway. I know all too well how scary and effective these old tactics were in 2004. Today, they are toothless.

Kids, watch your lunch money!

Guess what? Lots of those really smart folks who brought us the current global financial crisis are now looking for work. Guess where they’re heading?-- from Wall Street directly into teaching jobs.

"These big moments — and I think Sept. 11 was the last big moment — cause people to look for work that has meaning to them," says Tim Daly of the New Teacher Project, which recruits teachers nationwide.

Blue Moon

Every once in a while, Russo is right.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A different angle on the debate

What took so long? has been added to the RNC’s Barack Book. Harkening back to Nixon’s “enemies list,” the Republicans have assembled this collection of Obama’s “radical” associates on facebook (tagged as “just for fun politics”--a kind of digital McCarthyism. According to the RNC’s news release:

The most recent friend update includes Barack Obama's notable association with, a radical civil action group whose top donors include the likes of billionaire George Soros. has endorsed Obama, made fundraising pleas for Obama's presidential campaign, and has spent at least $463,152 in pro-Obama and at least $676,102 in anti-McCain independent expenditures.

With all that Soros money, it still took a week longer than it took me to make it into the Barack Book. Better work a little harder, Rust never sleeps.

Studs being Studs

Edward Lifson blogs at Hello Beautiful! But he posts this interview with Studs Terkel at Huff.

The idiots! They label Saul Alinsky - the great neighborhood organizer - as a subversive! He's been dead for 35 years and he was honored by the Catholic Church! He's no subversive. Neither is Bill Ayers! That Sarah Palin - you know, she's Joe McCarthy in drag!

Writes Lifson:
This from a man who was investigated by Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953. Studs refused to give evidence against other left-wing activists and he was blacklisted and his television contract was canceled.

Black turnout is strong in early voting in the South

From AP--CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Blacks are already surging to the polls in parts of the South, according to initial figures from states that encourage early voting — a striking though still preliminary sign of how strongly they will turn out nationwide for Barack Obama in his campaign to become the first African-American president.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Attacked by Limbaugh and McCarthy in one day...

In my inbox today

Angela writes...

Hi Mr. Klonsky,

Today's National Review article on you:

Just a heads up... I'm sure you don't follow the aptly named Andrew McCarthy too closely. :) The piece is generally hackish and alarmist. I don't bother with him generally, but was asked to look into it as my husband's dittohead co-workers are chattering about it.


Hi Angela,

Yes, I did read the McCarthy piece. Not only that, I was even a topic on Rush Limbaugh yesterday. Move over Dr. Ayers.

McCarthy, as always, is 90% B.S. and 10% distortion. He and Rush have made me out to be an "unabashed communist" and an "Annenberg/Obama millionaire."

Now my brother is asking me to loan him a few bucks. I told him, "sorry, but I invested it all in GM stock."

Even the quote he attributes to me isn't mine, as you can see if you follow it to the source in The Nation. What would I be doing writing about urban gardens, anyway? The fact checker probably went over to the Obama camp with former NRO publisher Chris Buckley. These guys really don't care about the truth. We're all simply collateral damage in their war against Obama and against the moderate faction in their own party.

I will delve further into this all stuff further after Nov. 4th.

Thanks again for the heads-up.

It was Bill Kristol's idea

Whose brilliant idea was it to make Bill Ayers the focus of McCain's campaign during this disastrous stretch run for the Republicans? It was none other than neocon ideologue Bill Kristol. Heading into the last debate, he convinced McCain to talk about all the "unsavory characters" Obama's been palin' around with, rather than focusing on all this "economic stuff."

By unsavory, Kristol means leftists like Ayers and me, from back in the day. Ironically, Kristol, the "far right's loudest barking dog," is himself a "red-diaper" baby, the son of Trotskyite-turned-neocon, Irving Kristol. Irving was one of those from the far left who, at some point (like his son) decided that liberal was synonymous with commie and both deserved as big a dose of McCarthyite purging as possible.

McCain campaign, R.I.P.

Gates for president in 2016?

First it was Dilbert's Scott Adams. Now, Ralph Nader thinks my pal Bill Gates should run for president in 8 years. Nader’s scenario includes the collapse of both Democratic and Republican parties in the next few years and the failure of Gates’ power philanthropy to drive real change. He tells the Oregonian:

“There are so many billionaires now,” Nader said. “There will be one going in. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gates went in 2016. He will have seen that massive charity won’t do it. It takes public policy.”

While anything is possible, there are two problems with Nader’s scenario. First, Nader of all people, should know that Gates and the muscle philanthropists, already have great influence over public policy without having to go through all that democracy stuff. In fact, the presidency might be seen by Bill as a demotion--certainly a cut in pay. Secondly, Gates has been seen palin’ around with and even funding some small-schoolers (obvious terrorists) to the tune of about $2 billion. I won’t name names but suffice to say, he as an Obama problem.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

'What's so bad about social justice?'

Nancy Flanagan is a 30-year teaching veteran of Hartland, MI, in K-12 music education. She blogs at the Teacher Leaders Network. Here she asks a question many of us are asking as this, the dirtiest of all elections heads toward the finish line: “When did social justice get to be a bad thing?”

Who are these people who are snarling around suggesting that creating schools and curriculums to address the learning needs of inner city poor kids is some kind of left-wing plot? If I’m not teaching—ultimately—toward social justice, toward improved opportunity for each of my students, then why would I teach at all? I certainly wouldn’t do it for the money.

Randi & Chester

Now, if these two can unite behind Obama’s education platform, why can’t we have peace in the Middle East?

"The Obama package looks pretty good to me," said Chester Finn Jr., president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute and former education undersecretary in the Reagan administration.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten might not be campaigning door to door with Finn, but she agrees that the conversation about education has changed. She said the change really began when George W. Bush created a bipartisan No Child Left Behind law that gave the federal government an unprecedented role in public education. "Now you have an interesting array of people whom you can't really characterize," Weingarten said. "You have to talk in shades of gray. Things never get implemented in education when you talk about litmus tests."


Déjà vu all over again

Michael Fellman at The

The resemblance of 2008 to the 1932 election is almost eerie. President Herbert Hoover, a true believer in laissez faire capitalism, had presided with almost complete passivity over the ever-deepening depression triggered by the 1929 stock market crash (when the Dow lost 87 per cent of its worth), and the ensuing industrial and banking catastrophe. Hoover had been preceded by 70 years of Republican hegemony, decades of wildfire capitalist development coursing along boom and bust cycles. Government had stayed clear of regulation while also handing out land and other resources to the private sector. The occasional Democratic president had played variations on Republican themes.

Freedom Summer

Howard Zinn asks some good questions, in his introduction to Kathy Emery’s new book, Lessons from Freedom Summer:

"Can we bring teachers and students together, not through the artificial sieve of certification and examination, but on the basis of their common commitment to an exciting social goal? Can we solve the old educational problem of how to teach children crucial values, while avoiding a blanket imposition of the teacher's ideas?

ACE Tech success

ACE Tech High is a small charter school on Chicago’s south side. I wrote about the school after my visit there a year ago and was impressed by the quality of ACE’s teachers and school leadership as well as with the school’s approach to integrating technical education with an orientation towards social justice. Today’s Sun-Times has a great story about one of ACE Tech’s graduates, Rodney J. Walker.

Dallas firings

Teachers tell their stories as mass firings begin in Dallas

One by one, they walked into their principal's office on Thursday, learned their fate and exited into an uncertain world. Some were stripped of the bonds that only teachers and their students can forge. Others packed their lives into cardboard boxes, gave tearful hugs goodbye and awoke the next morning with no place to go. As the week begins, schools in the Dallas Independent School District will have to sort out schedules for thousands of students and teachers – the fallout from several years of accounting and budgeting errors that have left the district with a deficit that could hit $84 million this year.

Signs of a desperate campaign

Anthrax scare

Barack Obama’s campaign offices in N.Y. and Philly have been hit with hate mail and anthrax scares. The N.Y. Obama phone bank office, which is in the same building as the UFT headquarters, received hate mail reading “Kill Barack” that was filled with a brownish-white powder.


Media Matters charges FOX and host Greta Van Susteren with several counts of bogus research for her Obama/Ayers/Annenberg special. MM says Van Susteren used only discredited sources like wing-nut Stanley Kurtz, to attack Obama and link him to the small-schools movement which is portrayed as some sort of black nationalist plot. They forgot about the Manhattan Institute’s ’60s Marxist-turned-liberal-teacher-hunter Sol Stern , who also joined in the fun. Stern, who compares Ayers to Stalin, now says, he’s only trying to make an honest buck by writing a book on Ayers (maybe they’ll make a movie).

Here’s a clip from the FOX special:

… Obama "continued running the Annenberg Challenge which Kurtz says favored projects that reflected Bill Ayers' hard-left views," then aired a portion of an interview with Kurtz, during which Kurtz asserted that "Bill Ayers really was focused on building up the loyalty of minority groups to their own ethnic heritage and downplaying traditional American patriotism."

Damn, and I always thought the small schools movement was nothing if it wasn’t all about American patriotism. And how about all those disloyal unpatriotic ethnic minorities…? Stern, who knows better, should be embarrassed. But he’s not.


Deb Meier offers her own rationale for signing the Support Bill Ayers petition, even though (like me) she disagreed with the way the petition was worded. More importantly, Deb’s post on Bridging Differences offers a lesson in democratic education. But it can’t help but draw fire from old Cold Warriors like Ravitch, Stern and Radosh.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Today's quotables

Socialists endorse McCain

Barbara Ehrenreich unmasks the Socialist International Conspiracy from hell.

After months of studying the candidates' economic plans, we have determined that one of them, and only one, can be relied on to complete the destruction of capitalism...


Front page EDWEEK headline about Chicago’s Annenberg Challenge reads:

“Backers Say Project Not ‘Radical.’”

Too bad.

Bill Gates on “creative capitalism”

Gates talks to Harvard business students about the powers of,

"Creative capitalism - it is not just about dollars, it is about the power of innovation. Capitalism has done a great job, but the foundation takes to areas where the mechanism has fallen short," said Gates. "My view is that every company should take 5% of their deep innovators, their researchers and really get them to see the needs of the poorest- in their area of work."

Gee, 5% vs. 95% still doesn’t seem like a fair fight to me.

Leo “The Plumber”Casey at Edwize breaks out the old Roto-Rooter and does a job on Joe Williams, Whitney Tilson, and the hedge-fund Democrats at DFER.

“Democrats for Education Reform? Sure they’re Democrats and for education reform, the same way that Joe the Plumber is a plumber.


Barry Crimmins’ blog is one of my favorite reads. Here, with one burst of classy writing, he pulls the pipe wrench out of the hands of Samuel (“Joe the Plumber”) Wurzelbacher,

“...who owns no business as of the moment and obviously is a few mountain ranges away from Obama's tax increase threshold,” and the carpet out from under “loopy old men like McCain telling us our children should be taught by soldiers who have been spared the cruel and unfair regulations that require people to get an education before becoming educators.”

Powell asks: 'Why do we keep talking about Ayers?'

Here's why...

Colin Powell on Meet the Press, Sunday, said that McCain’s negative campaign was one of the main reasons he’s backing Obama. Powell told reporters that the thought of attacking Mr. Obama for Mr. Ayers was “over the top.”

"This Bill Ayers situation that's been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign," Powell said. "But Mr. McCain says that he's a washed-out terrorist. Well, then, why do we keep talking about him?"


I'll try and answer that question for you, General Powell. It's because the Bill Ayers mania goes way beyond the election campaign. In fact, if anything, it has turned off most voters, including yourself. The real victim of the witch-hunters is academic freedom and democratic education, things I know you value.

Case-in-point: the banning of Ayers from attending an education research, school-reform meeting at the University of Nebraska last Friday.

University officials claimed they were receiving death threats against Bill Ayers’ and cancelled his scheduled speech on small schools and urban education, at a research conference at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Nebraska’s Republican Gov. Dave Heineman—not a big believer in academic freedom or the First Amendment—went even further:

"Bill Ayers is a well-known radical who should never have been invited," Heineman said Friday. "The people of Nebraska are outraged."

Hopefully, he will find out what the people are really outraged about, come election day.

Heineman, won the Republican primary in 2005 with a demagogic immigrant-bashing appeal to rural voters and support from the NRA. He’s already cast some doubt on the supposed death threats excuse, making it pretty clear that Ayers was banned purely for political reasons.

Heineman, appearing on Fox News late Friday, said he was pleased with the decision and skeptical about the stated reason behind it. “I’m not saying I’m buying into it either,” he said. “But the bigger issue is we wanted this event cancelled.” Heineman had called on NU President J.B. Milliken and Chuck Hassebrook, chairman of the NU Board of Regents, to tell Ayers to stay home.

Hassebrook called Heineman’s move “crass opportunism to try and jump on board and look good.” Chancellor Harvey Perlman also defended Ayers' selection, noting UNL, like any university, makes an effort to host speakers of a variety of political opinions.

"In this instance, it is unfortunate that a lecture directed toward an academic subject has become implicated in a political campaign. However, Professor Ayers is clearly regarded as a national expert in his field and can contribute to the understanding of this topic for our faculty and students. Nothing in his presence suggests that the university supports his personal or political philosophy or condones any of his former conduct."

The 'Generosity Index'

Icahn--"I take the same approach to education as I do to corporate boards."

Condé Nast Portfolio’s Magazine presents its Generosity Index of America’s billionaires and their giving (or not) habits.

The list, which includes profiles of power philanthropists like Bill Gates, Eli Broad and George Soros, as well as some of the billionaire tightwads, only scratches the surface and doesn’t even begin to tell us about how that giving is used, not just as a tax shelter, but to shape and influence politics and public education, free from public involvement.

You can learn a lot from what’s missing or misleading in the index. For example Broad’s profile lists his companies as SunAmerica and KB Homes. Broad sold SunAmerica years ago to recently bailed-out Wall Street giant AIG while KB Home was a lending partner which offered its mortgage services through failed sub-primed lender Countrywide.

Now Broad's foundation is second only to Gates in its unfettered influence over public education.

Some of the Portfolio portraits give us insights into how philanthropy is much more than “giving.” In a Q & A with venture capitalist Carl Icahn, who made his billions buying companies, breaking them up and then selling off the parts, he shares his broad-brush negative view of public education and his plan to leverage his business model onto public schools.

The whole education system in the country is close to dysfunctional. You’ve got a huge waste in education. I take the same approach to education as I do to corporate boards. Corporate governance is terrible. The same thing that is wrong in corporate America is what is wrong in education.

What Icahn won't admit, of course, is that he is a big part of what’s wrong with both.

Then there’s this from Eli Broad who helped manage AIG down the road to collapse:

Urban school districts are big businesses, and you don’t see any bright people with M.B.A.’s and several years’ experience there. The Broad Residency has placed more than 100 people with M.B.A.’s in urban districts. We’re creating an elite corps of managers, some of whom we think will end up running districts.

And they are.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Vallas joins the McCain/Palin slime-fest

Grabs chance to hit back at Daley

Former Chicago schools chief Paul Vallas, has been waiting in the wings for a chance to jump in on the Ayers, Annenberg slime-fest. Vallas, who was pushed out of his Chicago post by Mayor Daley, leaving the city's 70 high schools on the brink of collapse, then left Philly's school system as a financial basket case after opening the door to Edison and a host of failed, privately-run charters. Now he's preparing his exit from his post in New Orleans to become a high-priced ed consultant (and here) and possibly run for office in Illinois as a Republican (oops, bad timing).

You can tell by the N.Y. Post's lead, that this was never intended to be serious assessment of the Annenberg grant--the largest single private grant ever made to public schools, nationwide. I think it's just Vallas' way of trying to salvage some of his rep here and hit back at the Mayor.
Chicago's former schools chief has flunked the education foundation headed by Barack Obama and founded by 1960s terrorist Bill Ayers - saying it failed to monitor projects and funded school "reform" groups that campaigned against boosting academic standards. "There was a total lack of accountability. If you went back and asked, you'd be hard-pressed to find out how the money was spent," said Paul Vallas, the city's school superintendent when Obama chaired the Chicago Annenberg Foundation from 1995 to 1999.
A couple of points here. First, the Annenberg grant wasn't "founded" by Bill Ayers, as we have pointed out here and which has been confirmed by leaders of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC's) many times over. Secondly, unlike Vallas' $4.5 billion/year financial debacle in Chicago, the CAC's grants were made public and are out there for all to see.

Not that there weren't lots of problems with the CAC's initiative. The biggest one was its board's inability or unwillingness to let one penny of its funds fall into Vallas' hands. They were repelled by Vallas' top-down approach to reform. This led to an ego-maniacal Vallas lashing back at the entire Chicago foundation community and causing a rift that would ultimately lead the Mayor to give Vallas the boot. While many positive improvements happened during the Annenberg years, the lack of a partnership between the CAC and district leadership created impossible conditions for any real reform.

The latest "evidence"

Did Ayers, Klonsky and Obama really share an office?

The New McCarthyism is running full-throttle and it’s not just about Bill Ayers. Palin is now talking to the rabid ones about “pro-America” and “anti-America” regions of AMERICA and Minnesota Republican Rep. Michelle Bachman has been equating liberalism with anti-Americanism and is calling for investigations of other members of Congress to "find out if they are pro-America or anti-America."


Meanwhile the McCain/Palin wing-nuts have found hard evidence that Bill Ayers, Barack Obama and I all shared office space together back in 1997.

Wow! These anti-terrorist sleuth/bloggers are really good. How they solved the puzzle, you see, is that they went on our website and found the old address (115 S. Sangamon St.) of the Small Schools Workshop from back in the days when we were housed over at UIC (the University of Illinois at Chicago), in a mostly vacant building that was falling apart and was later condemned. So we all had to move. Then they dug even deeper into the public files of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) and found, lo and behold, that their address during that year, was also—you guessed it—115 S. Sangamon St. (evidence is shown above).

Whoop, there it is. Case closed. The commie, terrorist conspiracy from hell uncovered at last.

Except for two minor points, of course. One: Bill Ayers never worked in the Sangamon St. building. His office was in the Education Building at UIC, a mile away on the other side of the campus. Oh yes, and Barack Obama also never worked nor had an office at the Sangamon St. building, and as far as I know, never even once set foot in the building. While he was a board member of CAC and even president of the board for a time, the Sangamon St. office of CAC was for staff members. Obama wasn’t one and didn’t ever have a role in directing CAC funding.

But don't despair, all you wing-nut sleuths out there. I will readily admit that if Sen. Obama WOULD have had an office at Sangamon St. I probably WOULD HAVE offered to take him to lunch tried to sell him on the small schools idea, and even hit him up for a contribution, as I was wont to do back then.

Instead, our actual office mates were a nice bunch of folks from the area headquarters of ROTC and the University of Illinois at Chicago's ROTC program. I admit we had some fun office parties together where we shared some rather subversive ideas with top officers and rank and file cadets about education and politics, as we were also wont to do.

Gee, I hope my frank admission doesn't lead to a McCarthy-type, full-blown investigation of the entire U.S. Army circa 1954.