Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Privatization news: China delivers a blow to it's own ed profiteers

I doubt it. 

U.S. companies have raked in billions of dollars in super-profits, especially during the pandemic, from a burgeoning, privatized global ed-tech and remote-learning sector. Now they are turning apprehensive eyes towards China. 

This week China announced a sweeping overhaul of its $100 billion education tech sector, barring companies that teach the school curriculum from making profits, raising capital, or going public. Companies and institutions that teach the school curriculum must now go non-profit. 

Bloomberg reports:

The new regulations threaten to obliterate the outsized growth that made stock market darlings of TAL Education Group, New Oriental Education & Technology Group and Gaotu Techedu Inc. They could also put the market largely out of reach of global investors. Education technology had emerged as one of the hottest investment plays in China in recent years, attracting billions from the likes of Tiger Global Management, Temasek Holdings Pte, and SoftBank Group Corp.

Like the proverbial butterfly effect, China's latest anti-privatization moves have sent tremors down Wall Street with losses in Chinese tech and education stocks now exceeding $1 trillion since February. 

The new policies stem from a deeper backlash against the industry. Chinese educators say that excessive tutoring "torments youths, burdens parents with expensive fees, and exacerbates inequalities in society."  The out-of-school education industry has been “severely hijacked by capital,” according to a separate article posted on the site of the Ministry of Education. 

They say the new regulations are focused on compulsory subjects, meaning critical material like math, science, and history. Classes for art or music mostly would not fall under the new restrictions.

What impact all this will have on China's heavy reliance on standardized testing is unclear. 

Also unclear is what impact this will have on current U.S. ed policies which are increasingly tilted towards the privatization of public education, school vouchers, privately-run charters, remote learning, and standardization. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Cops in schools revisited and a good compromise on community oversight

“By shifting the conversation towards more holistic approaches to safety, we believe that the new plans will enable schools to use strategies that are more proactive and supportive in keeping our students safe.”
--Jadine Chou, CPS’ chief of safety and security.

I'm glad CPS, the City Council, and the mayor opted to allow Local School Councils (LSCs) to have a say over keeping cops in their schools or using meager discretionary funds to pay for alternative security options. 

Yesterday, more than 30 Chicago high schools voted to redirect money spent on uniformed police officers towards alternative behavioral and mental health supports a year after intense student-led protests put a microscope on the role of cops in public schools.

The votes will shift about $2 million from policing to restorative justice programs, with a total of 31 high schools choosing to remove at least one of the two officers typically stationed inside their buildings. 

In this case, those school communities made the right decision. But more importantly, it was their decision.

This should reaffirm our support for LSCs, a democratic reform we fought for and won more than 30 years ago, and my long-held belief that most basic decisions about the conduct and content of schooling should be made locally by teachers, parents, and students. In Chicago, top-down reform imposed on schools by the board, the mayor, state legislators, or the aldermen, has always been a failure. 

Austerity -- It's shameful that this choice, like most others within our public school system, had to be made primarily on the basis of austerity rather than on principle or best practices.


Yesterday, another good decision regarding community control of the police was made by city political leaders. Mayor Lightfoot and a City Council majority came together at long last on a police oversight ordinance that establishes a seven-member Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability. 

The City Council voted 36-13 to pass the ordinance. The compromise represented a defeat for the FOP and the pro-FOP caucus of aldermen who want less, not more community oversight of CPD. They included no-voters: Brian Hopkins (2nd); Anthony Beale (9th); Patrick Daley Thompson (11th); Marty Quinn (13th); Edward Burke (14th); Matt O’Shea (19th); Silvana Tabares (23rd); Ariel Reboyras (30th); Nick Sposato (38th); Samantha Nugent (39th); Anthony Napolitano (41st); Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Jim Gardiner (45th).

While it's a far cry from the original CPAC proposal demanded by some left activist groups, both the mayor and many of her die-hard council opponents are cheering the compromise.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), a strong advocate for civilian oversight, said “democracy is messy” for good reason. Ordinary people need to have “great involvement” at all levels.

“There’s a disconnect between police and our communities as it relates to solving crimes. In order for us to get back to that, we have to get the community involved. This takes a strong step with re-engaging, resetting our relationships between the community and the police,” Sawyer said.

And listen to the leader of the anti-Lightfoot caucus from day-one, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th): 

“Sometimes, we were at odds. But we came together because we knew that our city had to get something right ... to ensure that people in every single community feel safe. That they are safe. No one should be afraid of violence — whether by another citizen or by those tasked to protect and serve them." 

Lightfoot called the debate “one for the ages” and made passing reference to the contentious negotiations that set the stage for the compromise. 

“We’ve come a long way. We’ve had some stumbles. We’ve had some disagreements. But because of the hard work [of so many], we are on the precipice of making history,” the mayor said.

A little over-the-top? Maybe. But I'll take it for now.  

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The imperial mind of David Brooks

"America, disillusioned with itself, is now withdrawing." -- David Brooks

Brooks is an unreconstructed imperialist, an anti-China cold warrior who still envisions America as the last and only great white hope to save our admittedly "flawed and error-prone" democracy from the advances of the dark and evil forces around the globe.

In his July 15th NYT opinion piece, The American Identity Crisis, Brooks objects to Biden's apparent retreat from Afghanistan where this country has fought its longest, seemingly eternal war at the cost of trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. I say apparent because the U.S. will continue to back the regime with drones based in neighboring countries and will supply it with armaments and aircraft as well as maintaining contracted fighters in-country.

The withdrawal of all U.S. troops by Sept. 1st is actually more of a strategic repositioning targeting China than a withdrawal. As Biden himself put it in his July 8th speech:

We are developing a counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed.

And we also need to focus on shoring up America’s core strengths to meet the strategic competition with China and other nations that is really going to determine — determine our future. 

About 241,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone since 2001. More than 71,000 of those killed have been civilians. If official accounts are to be accepted, the war has killed more people last month than in any other month since 2001, when the United States and NATO troops invaded the country.

But for Brooks, this cost in treasure and human life is apparently a small price to pay for his imagined military defeat of the Taliban and defense of the corrupt U.S. puppet regime in Kabul. 

He blames the withdrawal of the last remaining U.S. troops, begun by Trump and reportedly completed by Biden, on "the American left" who he claims has "lost confidence" in American manifest destiny and has forsaken the country's identity as the military enforcer of liberal-democratic values in resistant countries. 

He writes:

I guess what befuddles me most is the behavior of the American left. I get why Donald Trump and other American authoritarians would be ambivalent about America’s role in the world. They were always suspicious of the progressive package that America has helped to promote.

But every day I see progressives defending women’s rights, L.G.B.T.Q. rights and racial justice at home and yet championing a foreign policy that cedes power to the Taliban, Hamas and other reactionary forces abroad.
Brooks is actually more MAGA than Trump. He longs for the days when the threat and use of unrivaled U.S. military power were enough to impose regime change on resistant peoples and countries. But as the past half-century of failed U.S. military adventures, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, those days are numbered. 

Footnote: As I'm writing this, Reuters is reporting that Taliban officials and Afghan politicians met in Qatar on Saturday amid calls for peace by both sides following continued fighting in the region. 

I'm still hoping against hope that a bloody civil war can be averted once all foreign troops leave the country and that the Afghani people will finally be able to determine their own destiny. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021


Donald Trump
“If it’s bad, I say it’s fake. If it’s good, I say that’s the most accurate poll ever.” -- Forbes.

Pastor James Altman 

...said in a morning prayer “let us realize our health is in the name of The Lord, who actually did make Heaven and Earth,” adding, “that’s all the science we need to know.” -- Newsweek

Sidebar ~  Altman has been canned as pastor of St. James the Less, a Catholic church on La Crosse’s north side after he delivered a slew of political messaging and misinformation that has caused pushback from his congregation. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci

“It’s horrifying. They’re cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives,” Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said of the crowd cheering for low vaccination rates. “I just don’t get that, and I don’t think anybody who’s thinking clearly can get that." -- CNN 

Greg Sargent

 These days, the right-wing culture war is perhaps better described with three Vs: vaccine derangement, validation of white racial innocence, and valorization of insurrectionists. -- WaPo 

Monday, July 12, 2021


WH Press Secretary Psaki: "Kids should learn not just the good, but also the challenging in our history." -- Twitter

Nikole Hannah-Jones

’“At some point when you have proven yourself and fought your way into institutions that were not built for you . . . you have to decide that you are done forcing yourself in.” -- Statement on her decision to decline tenure at UNC

White House press secretary Jen Psaki 

...acknowledged during a briefing on Friday that the U.S. is still plagued by “systemic racism” and it is “responsible” to teach about it in schools as part of critical race theory. -- Press briefing

Paul Butler, Georgetown Law School professor

Sometimes, helping majority-White spaces be less racist and more inclusive feels transformative. Other times, it feels like an intellectual version of my great-grandfather’s job; he cleaned outhouses — i.e., shoveling White people’s excrement.  -- Washington Post

AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten 

"Mark my words: Our union will defend any member who gets in trouble for teaching honest history. Teaching the truth is not radical or wrong." -- Address at the union's TEACH conference.

Donald Trump

 "With the help of everyone here today, we will defeat the radical left, the socialists, Marxists, and the critical race theorists." -- CPAC Conference

Monday, July 5, 2021


Dorian Warren, the president of Community Change, a D.C.-based social justice organization

What Is Post-Trump Patriotism? ~ I thought of Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?” It is a searing indictment of the hard truths of our history, of plunder, of enslavement, of a range of exploitative and unjust actions at the highest levels. At the same time, I’m a black person in America so I have no choice but to fight for the promise of America. -- Capital & Main

Dr. Gyan Pathak

Vaccination against COVID-19 suffers from inequality and sluggishness nationalism, competition, and charity retreat and make room for internationalism, cooperation and solidarity, the world will be propelled towards an unprecedented tragedy in the history of mankind. -- National Herald of India

Robert P. Jones, author of “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity” 

It’s time to exorcise the ahistorical notion of white Christian supremacy and innocence. Patriotism is not the purview of those who see a white Christian America as the divinely ordained end of human achievement. We can no longer sustain its mythical vision of God and country where white Christians are always heroes, inheriting and defending America as their own divinely ordained promised land. -- RNS


Thursday, July 1, 2021

McQueary is leaving the Tribune. Good riddance.

The people hired to take on corporate salvation projects have to have "Mussolini-like powers to execute and implement." -- Tribune editorial

Goodbye and good riddance to Tribune editorial page editor, Kristen McQueary who's leaving here  without a buyout. I guess when they know you're leaving anyway, there's no point in offering you early retirement. 

Her departure comes after the Trib has already been gutted under the new management of Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund. Alden has done the same to about 200 other newspapers across the country including The Denver Post, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Boston Herald, The Mercury News of San Jose, the East Bay Times, The Orange County Register, and the Orlando Sentinel. 

 In March 2018, Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist for The Washington Post, called Alden "one of the most ruthless of the corporate strip-miners seemingly intent on destroying local journalism.

So far, more than 40 Trib journos and staffers have left the paper. 

While I feel terrible for those who have lost their jobs and possibly their careers because of the Alden takeover, forgive me for shedding no tears over the loss of McQueary. She's always been a Chicago basher and especially hateful of its public schools. She and John Kass have long occupied the far-right corner at the right-wing Tribune. 

In a racist 2015 rant, reflecting back on Hurrican Katrina, McQueary wrote: 

I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops. That's what it took to hit the reset button in New Orleans. Chaos. Tragedy. Heartbreak.

Educators especially will recall similar thoughts on the part of then-Sec. of Ed Arne Ducan who anticipated McQuary in 2010.

I spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and this is a tough thing to say, but let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. 

The idea is that cities like Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans are beyond repair and that a natural disaster, or a man-made one, is the only hope for a "rebirth."

In fairness, I should point out that in the face of public outrage, McQuary (like Duncan) did offer an apology. Well, it wasn't really an apology but rather an explanation.

I wrote what I did not out of lack of empathy, or racism, but out of long-standing frustration with Chicago’s poorly managed finances. 

Whenever one has to explain that they are not really spewing racism, that it's only a metaphor...well, you know the rest. 

Keep in mind, her devasting paen to disaster capitalism came only weeks after her Trib editorial calling for a Mussolini-type dictator to run the Chicago school system. 

Final note... It's disquieting to read over-the-top, gushing farewells to McQueary coming from a few long-entrenched Chicago white media aristocracts.