The national call introduction states: Over the last several decades, the Pentagon, conservative forces, and corporations have been systematically working to expand their presence in the K-12 learning environment and in public universities. The combined impact of the military, conservative think tanks and foundations, and of corporatization of our public educational systems has eroded the basic democratic concept of civilian public education. It is a trend that, if allowed to continue, will weaken the primacy of civilian rule and, ultimately, our country’s commitment to democratic ideals. The National Call suggests actions for foundations, organizations and individuals to take to implement the call.
More than 20 national education and civil rights advocates sent a letter Monday to Department of Defense officials, urging them to stop giving U.S. school police departments anti-mine vehicles, military-grade firearms like M16s, and even grenade launchers. News reports and lists of recipients of surplus hardware reveal that assault-style rifles, armored vehicles and other military supplies have been handed over to school districts large and small, from California, Texas, Nevada and Utah to Florida, Georgia, Kansas and Michigan. In California, the San Diego Unified School District acquired an 18-ton Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, called a MRAP, through the DOD’s 1033 program to transfer surplus supplies to civilian law enforcement.
The process unfolding at Florida State University looks troublingly similar to much of American politics today: decision makers support outcomes or agendas favoring the rich and well-connected despite broad public opposition, well-publicized conflicts of interests, and with disregard to legitimate requests for redress of grievances voiced by those affected in processes that seem rigged from the start. And it’s not just in Florida. “We believe that FSU is one example in a national crisis,” the FSU Progress Coalition students wrote earlier this month. The FSU situation is reflective of a broader national trend in recent years that has seen powerful politicians appointed by questionable processes to head prestigious universities – despite lacking the qualifications normally required of university presidents and clear conflicts of interests. FSU’s connections with the Koch brothers’ influence is also part and parcel of rise in “charitable” contributions that they have been using to gain control over ideas and curricula in US colleges and universities. The FSU Progress Coalition students’ research documents that “the Charles Koch Foundation is already funding over 300 universities in the United States today and the numbers continue to increase.”
A Florida school board rescinded its vote Tuesday to opt out of standardized testing standardized, changing its mind about its unprecedented decision that captured the growing discontent among parents and teachers nationwide over the number of tests children are given. In a first for Florida and possibly the nation, Lee County voted last week not to administer tests tied to the Common Core academic standards or any end-of-course exams. The vote came after parents organized petitions, Facebook groups and meetings in favor of scaling back or getting rid of standardized testing. “People said, ‘Enough is enough,’” said Bob Schaeffer, education director for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, which endorsed the opt-out vote. “The volume of standardized testing has exploded out of control.” But the decision was met with immediate backlash: Superintendent Nancy Graham warned the opt-out could hurt students and asked the board to change its vote.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Government and business leaders profess that today’s education policies will provide students with “21st-century skills.” If only these leaders had the 19th-century wisdom of Frederick Douglass, they would see that the education “reform” they are imposing has created a school environment that is devastating to our children’s development and mental health. Our most vulnerable children often suffer “toxic stress:” prolonged activation of the body’s stress response system brought on by chronic traumatic experiences. Toxic stress disrupts the development of the areas of the brain associated with learning and can have lifelong consequences.
The Nasr City Misdemeanor Court sentenced nine Azhar University students to five years in prison and a fine of EGP 50,000 on Sunday, state-owned Al-Ahram reported. The students were arrested in May during clashes with security forces in the Al-Azhar University dormitories. The defendants are charged with “inciting riots, crowding, resisting authorities, damaging public properties, and joining an armed group that aims to disrupt public peace and order”. The detainment of 49 Al-Azhar students in Abu Zaabal Prison began an open-ended hunger strike on 5 September to demand their freedom, according to the Al-Azhar Students Against the Coup (SAC) group. “More than a year has passed and we have been moving along the corridors of prisons, torturous police stations, and in the cells of prison,” the hunger-striking students said in a statement they released from the Abu Zaabal detentions.
Librarians in Massachusetts are working to give their patrons a chance to opt-out of pervasive surveillance. Partnering with the ACLU of Massachusetts, area librarians have been teaching and taking workshops on how freedom of speech and the right to privacy are compromised by the surveillance of online and digital communications — and what new privacy-protecting services they can offer patrons to shield them from unwanted spying of their library activity. It’s no secret that libraries are among our most democratic institutions. Libraries provide access to information and protect patrons’ right to explore new ideas, no matter how controversial or subversive. Libraries are where all should be free to satisfy any information need, be it for tax and legal documents, health information, how-to guides, historical documents, children’s books, or poetry.
I KNOW I MAY BE IN BREACH OF MY CONTRACT BY NOT ADMINISTERING THIS TEST. I CANNOT IN GOOD CONSCIENCE SUBMIT TO ADMINISTERING THIS TEST THREE TIMES A YEAR, LOSING SIX WEEKS OF INSTRUCTION. THERE IS A GOOD POSSIBILITY I WILL BE FIRED. I am heartsick over the possibility of losing my job. I love my job. There is nothing I would rather do than teach. I have cried and cried over this, but in the end, it’s not about me. I feel God wants me to stand up for what is best for children. So, come what may, this is my stance. I WILL NOT ADMINISTER THE FAIR TEST TO MY STUDENTS. If you are wondering what you can do, first and foremost, pray that the testing situation for children in Florida will change. Secondly, if you are a teacher or administrator, tell your story. This is not an education problem. This is a state government problem.
About the guest | Dan Arel is freelance journalist for Alternet and Salon as well as a blogger for The Huffington Post. He writes a column called Danthropology for American Atheists Magazine and is the author of the book Parenting Without God, How to Raise Moral, Ethical and Intelligent Children, Free from Religious Dogma, published byDangerous Little Books About Acronym TV with Dennis Trainor, Jr. | ABOUT ACRONYM TV with Dennis Trainor, Jr. Dennis Trainor, Jr. hosts Acronym TV, a weekly series of dialogue, conversation and debate with the goal of helping viewers sort through these transformative times through the insight of leading activists, artists, journalists, philosophers, scholars, and thinkers. Acronym TV’s growing YouTube subscriber base of 33 thousand has generated over 30 million views, and is part of The Young Turks Network, the largest online news source in the world. Acronym TV, what do you stand for?
Valerie Barr, a professor of computer science at Union College, decided last summer to take a leave of absence to join the National Science Foundation and help improve science education among undergraduates. But when a background check revealed her involvement in left-wing groups 30 years ago, she was told to leave. News of Barr’s dismissal comes three months after a respected policy analyst was fired from the Los Alamos National Laboratory following complaints about an anti-nuclear article that he had written. And, now according to a report in ScienceInsider, Valerie Barr’s colleagues worry that her experience will have a chilling effect on efforts to recruit other scientists under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA)—which allows academics to temporarily work for NSF without quitting their existing jobs.
In the present-day, the ABA is waging a quiet war on students by actively combating virtually any legislation that would ease their debt burden. With regards to being able to get rid of student loans in bankruptcy, the ABA stated in 2012 that, if allowed to go into effect, it “would tempt students to rack up big debt that they won’t repay [and that] ‘The bankruptcy system would be opened to abuse.” This is rather ironic, accusing that students will engage in irresponsible lending and borrowing habits, when considering the banks themselves engaged in massive amounts of the exact same activity by giving mortgage loans to people they knew couldn’t repay the amount.
The Education Department is demanding so much money from seniors with defaulted student loans that it’s forcing tens of thousands of them into poverty, according to a government audit. At least 22,000 Americans aged 65 and older had a part of their Social Security benefits garnished last year to the point that their monthly benefits were below federal poverty thresholds, according to the Government Accountability Office. Education Department-initiated collections on defaulted federal student loans left at least another 83,000 Americans aged 64 and younger with poverty-level Social Security payments, GAO data show. Federal auditors cautioned that the number of Americans forced to accept poverty-level benefits because of past defaults on federal student loans are surely higher.
Columbia University students staged a demonstration Friday, dragging several mattresses in front of the Ivy League school’s iconic Alma Mater statue to protest the university’s handling of sexual violence on campus. The student demonstration was in support of Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia senior who says she plans to carry a mattress, like the one on which she was sexually assaulted, around campus until her alleged rapist is no longer at the school. Sulkowicz, along with two other women, accused the same male student of assaulting them, but the university did not find him responsible when it investigated. Sulkowicz and the other reported victims claim there were numerous problems in the investigation, and she was one of 23 students who filed two federal complaints against the New York university in April.
“It won’t, by itself, eradicate poverty,” Hass says, “but I think it’s a very positive step in the right direction of not only reducing poverty but also meeting the needs of employers who are trying to find qualified people for jobs.” Several of Mississippi’s community colleges already offer free tuition, but state Rep. Jerry Turner won’t stand for “several.” He wants to make all 15 of the state’s community colleges free. Turner authored a bill that proposed that idea, and though it died in committee earlier this year, it’ll be up for discussion again in January. Alabama and other states neighboring Mississippi are also looking into the idea. David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research for the American Association of Community Colleges, expects efforts that address the cost of college will grow. While he thinks these policies are positive, Baime worries about the less well-prepared students and the part-time students who work and will be excluded by full-time eligibility requirements. “Sometimes, the students who are sort of on the margin are left behind,” Baime says. Kell Smith, the director of communications and legislative service for the Mississippi Community College Board, says full-time requirements encourage students not only to complete school but to complete it in a timely manner.