Sunday, February 18, 2018

Will Progressive Education Policy Put Bernie In The White House Next Time?


A week or so ago we looked at an interesting video of Bernie's wife Jane interviewing economist Stephanie Kelton about a paper she and her colleagues had just published on student debt cancellation, likely to be an important part of Bernie's 2020 campaign platform. A couple of years ago Gaius posted about Bernie's likely 2020 opponent, Joe Biden and how he has backed bills to make it harder to reduce student debt, let alone cancel it. I can't imagine a Democrat who would be a worse representative of a perspective from the 20th Century... or even the 19th.
Before Biden was rebranded as the kindly, well-liked Vice President, he was a long-serving senator from Delaware, the "senator from MBNA" as he was often called for a number of very good reasons. Delaware is the state that attracted a great many credit card company headquarters by offering little in the way of usury laws-- limits to interest rates that banks could charge their customers. As a result, one of Delaware's most important industries is those who profit from debt-creation.

Being in the consumer debt business, especially student debt and credit card debt, is a license to print money, and protecting that lucrative source of money is the job of Delaware senators like Biden, just as protecting Boeing's access to government money via the Export-Import Bank is the job of senators like Washington's Patty Murray, the so-called "senators from Boeing."

Joe Biden is, and has been for years, a friend and enabler of his state's debt industry.

Biden's political fortunes rose in tandem with the financial industry's. At 29, he won the first of seven elections to the U.S. Senate, rising to chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee, which vets bankruptcy legislation. On that committee, Biden helped lenders make it more difficult for Americans to reduce debt through bankruptcy-- a trend that experts say encouraged banks to loan more freely with less fear that courts could erase their customers’ repayment obligations. At the same time, with more debtors barred from bankruptcy protections, the average American’s debt load went up by two-thirds over the last 40 years. Today, there is more than $10,000 of personal debt for every person in the country, as compared to roughly $6,000 in the early 1970s.

That increase-- and its attendant interest payments-- have generated huge profits for a financial industry that delivered more than $1.9 million of campaign contributions to Biden over his career, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Biden's a tangent. Public education advocates were cheered-- pleasantly surprised-- when the new governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, a conservative Democrat, dealt a nice strong rebuke to charter school fanatic and Trumpist Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos by appointing Atif Qarni his secretary of education. A Pakistani-American ex-Marine, Qarni was a Prince William County Public Schools educator and, when Northam appointed him to the state's top education slot he was teaching civics and economics, U.S History, and mathematics at Beville Middle School in Dale City.

Qarni: "If we want to build an economy that works better for every family, no matter who you are, no matter where you live, we must begin with the foundation of a world-class education. We can accomplish it if we support our educators and school support professionals, uphold accountability, invest in and expand STEAM curriculum, and make early childhood education a priority."

In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, an old friend of mine from Athens, Georgia, Bertis Downs, wrote a column for Slate about how Democratic candidates should deal with education policy. He was happy that both Hillary and Bernie had finally started "questioning the efficacy and priority of charter schools in the national dialogue on educating our children" and seemed especially happy that Bernie had proposed a new, "equity-focused approach to funding education." But not happy enough. He wrote that "the candidates’ words don’t seem to resonate with many of the largely untapped public education parents and teachers who are in search of a candidate. Neither candidate really has a grasp on the varied and complex issues that have to be addressed when considering the changes and reforms our schools and children truly need. Let's help their campaigns by outlining the speech that at least one of them ought to give-- and soon:
We know several things about public education. We know it is the road out of poverty for many children. We know many or most of our public schools are doing a fine job of educating our children. But we also know our nation still suffers from generations of neglect, discrimination and underfunding that drive unconscionable disparities in how we educate our privileged and our less affluent children. Clearly, education does not exist in a vacuum. We cannot expect schools or teachers alone to solve the immense problems many of our youngest children face in their home lives. Schools are expected to do more and more in an age when we are making it harder for them to do the basic job of educating their students. It seems that teachers have less control over what and how they teach, yet teachers are blamed more than ever for how their students perform on standardized tests. Is it any wonder we have an impending shortage of teachers? Even those who have long dreamed of being teachers may be hesitant to enter the profession as it is currently defined. Is that really what we want? Is that really what our children deserve?

John Dewey once said, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that we must want for all of the children of the community." Well, under my administration, we will actually govern that way and foster the kinds of schools where we would all be proud to send our children. We all know the factors that make a school great: excellent teachers who are respected, compensated, and supported so they can better teach our children; a rich and varied curriculum that includes the basic academic subjects as well as the arts and physical education; safe and healthy learning environments; the school as a center of community; strong leadership that focuses on enabling educators to collaborate, develop, and improve as they teach; reasonable class sizes; and an active and engaged parent and community presence. These describe some of our best schools-- both public and private. And these are the attributes our policies need to be building and sustaining, not undermining and discouraging. For too long, our policies have created a de facto parallel system-- schools for the Haves and other schools for the Have-nots. We need to shift our thinking and try a different approach-- one that strives to improve opportunities for all of our nation’s children, not just a select few. Put simply, we must redouble our efforts to expand on our schools’ existing strengths, while freeing teachers to teach and addressing the lingering inequality that presents challenges to teachers and administrators.

Thus far, there’s been very little campaign time devoted to public education policy. I guess that’s not surprising given the amount of money and power at stake. Someone recently joked that on the Democratic campaign trail it’s as if children go straight from pre-K to debt-free college, and there’s no such thing as K-12 education in between. Well, I want to change that mistaken perception. I want to address the hard questions, face the obvious challenges, and examine current practices to discern what works and what needs to be expanded. We also have to determine how to equitably allocate our resources strategically to solve problems. And then our nation has to set about the real work to make all our schools work for each of our children.

How do we do that? Well, in recent months, I have been quietly talking with teachers, principals, parents and students. These are the true stakeholders in this debate, after all. Many of these true stakeholders are affiliated with groups like the Network for Public Education, the Badass Teachers Association, Parents Across America, Class Size Matters, Education Opportunity Network, National Education Policy Center, Journey for Justice, FAIRTEST, Save Our Schools, United Opt-Out and the growing movement of student activist groups in many of our major cities. These are grassroots groups with smart, dedicated and hardworking people who believe in the value of public education and work hard every day to strengthen and improve the system.  Groups like these will have a seat at the table in my administration. Together, we will carefully consider the various approaches of Community Schools-- public schools that incorporate social service agencies, local businesses, and health and adult learning resources, to ensure that children and their families have the support they need. These programs have had promising results where implemented, but they have not been fully embraced or built out to their potential. That needs to change. Communities all over America are doing this work-- building communities around and within schools, positively affecting the culture by addressing out-of-school factors that we all know have a major impact on school performance.

I am listening to educators and parents-- the true stakeholders-- and I will put some educators with actual real-world, real-school experience in positions of power in my administration. For a long time now, we have pursued so many of the corporatized policies: test and punish, drill and kill, stack, rank and close. These practices are not helping our children learn. And from my lifelong travels around the country and the globe, I know that no other country uses standardized testing the same way we do. There is a better way-- our teachers and parents know there’s a better way.

This approach will support children and begin to address the socioeconomic factors that pose challenges for our students at home. Let’s try an approach that values educators and supports their efforts to innovate and try new things. And let’s figure out ways to reward schools that look like America, with the rich and sustainable diversity that has long been one of our nation’s essential strengths. Integrated schools are healthier schools. In the wise words of Thurgood Marshall, "...unless our children begin to learn together, there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together."

We say we want good schools for each child. But the policies we have pursued at the federal and most state levels have not produced that result-- not even close. Mine will be the first administration in a long time that not only makes speeches about strengthening and improving our public schools, but actually adopts policies that will strengthen and improve our public schools. To those of you who have said my campaign hasn’t emphasized public education enough: you are right. Admittedly, I am looking at this with new eyes as I consider the education of my own grandchildren. How we educate them, and the millions of peers coming up alongside them, is one of the nation’s greatest responsibilities. I, for one, am ready to do my part.
Alas, neither Hillary nor Bernie ever made that speech. Bernie will have another shot at it in 2 years. I know he plans to emphasize education a lot more strongly in 2020.

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At 5:26 AM, Blogger s_baghaii said...

How is he planning to address shootings in school when he addresses education?

At 7:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good question, S. We've been cranking out imbeciles from our shit-for-ed system now for several decades. We'll be cranking out imbeciles suffering from PTSD from the time of Columbine on. I'm not sure a society can ever be fixed when all the kids are both stupid and suffer from PTSD.

I will remind everyone that Bernie SAYS we need a revolution; even wrote a book about it. But Bernie, when the opportunity to lead that revolution presented itself, he turtled, caved, went fetal and proceeded to endorse and campaign for MOS, status quo, corruption embodied, war, bank fraud and all the other ills that we now suffer.

Recognize Bernie's words as truth. But you need to temper your enthusiasm for the man. He's proved that he's nothing more than a rank opportunist. We need someone else with some ACTUAL stones to lead that revolution.

At 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corporations have been abusing the H-1B visa to bring in foreign PhDs and paying them less than the domestic variety would cost. I am a STEM worker, and I know many degreed and experienced engineers of several disciplines who can't get job interviews while foreigners increasingly staff the positions within my immediate view.

The recent offer by France to fund research is the canary in the coal mine. Increasingly, American brain power will be siphoned off by nations who see the future, and who aren't fighting tooth and nail to ensure that the dominant technologies of the past aren't replaced. American workers are losing health care, retirement, and access to technology via exorbitant fees to the greedy owners.

On this last, I am not watching the Global Nationalist Games. My final question is to anyone who is: Are the media covering the fact that Seoul residents have far better Internet service than any place in the US of A and at a fraction of the cost?

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:44, the IT disciplines also. Granted our ed system sucks and theirs don't, but the numbers imported from India alone would blow your mind. Remember that every one of them replaced/supplanted an American, but for less.

What we see on the teevee machine in this shithole is a very slanted version of ultra nationalist American glory coverage. We see an American finish 17th instead of someone else finishing in the top 10. But we do see a lot of gays, which is kind of ironic for a nation as homophobic as this shithole.

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no chance that the financial elites will risk Bernie wining again. They will do all in their power to eliminate him as a candidate from the moment he'd announce. If it wasn't for Debbie Washerwoman-Schitz, he might have won, and things would be very different now. This possibility is what will drive the Big Money to see to it that their bought and paid for political operatives do all they can to prevent a resurgence.


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