Last spring, George Mason University (GMU) showed up in the current events column for its record of accepting large contributions from Charles and David Koch. The Kochs’ money bought them, apparently, some latitude in the hiring of faculty, particularly in the economics department, at GMU. Transparent GMU, an activist group dedicated to exposing the relations between donors and GMU and their effect on disinterested inquiry at this institution went to court over the Koch’s relationship with GMU, which literally put the University on the defensive. GMU is not the only post-secondary institution which has accepted money from the Kochs; indeed, another activist organization, Unkoch My Campus, serves as something of a clearinghouse on the Kochs’ largesse and how it is used to influence inquiry and scholarship in colleges and universities.
Charles and David Koch have long sought scholarly support and credibility for their libertarianism which, by some measures, is a fringe ideology. By way of such organizations as the Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), they have also sought to shape the political landscape of the United States through “scholarly” writing and political activism–particularly aggressive lobbying. All of this has been extensively documented just about everywhere someone has taken up pen or word processor to report on the David and Charles Koch’s political activities. That said, I particularly recommend Jane Mayer’s thoroughly documented and in every way excellent book Dark Money, which covers the political effects of corporate spending in elections in the United States by the Kochs and other members of their funding network.
Mark’s Text Terminal is not a political blog, but if this blog and its author stand for anything, it is for learning by way of intellectual independence and scholarly disinterest. If wealthy, self-interested Americans seek to create scholarly and/or institutional legitimacy for themselves at the expense of scholarly freedom, then I must speak. This is one of those moments, and one of those situations.
All the news from GMU is not bad, however. The above excursus is simply a long way around to calling teachers’ attention to the interesting and potentially quite useful Speech Accent Archive at George Mason University. This appears to be one of the intellectual bright spots at GMU. For the classroom teacher at the elementary and secondary level, particularly those working with English language learners, I think this is a valuable resource. If nothing else, though, it is a pretty cool piece of scholarship, for which George Mason University, in spite of whatever compromises it made with unscrupulous, self-interested donors, should be commended.
[There’s nothing I can add to this other than to say it comes as no surprise.]
Diane Ravitch's blog
Franklin Towne Charter High School in Philadelphia has been accused of discrimination against a student with disabilities, reports Greg Windle in The Notebook.
Pamela James was thrilled when her granddaughter was accepted at Franklin Towne Charter High School. Her granddaughter raced off to tell friends the good news, and James gave the school a copy of her granddaughter’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), which included the need for emotional support — a common but relatively expensive requirement among students in Philly schools.
Hours later they were both shaken when James got a call from the Northeast Philadelphia school, informing her that her granddaughter could not attend as a result of her emotional disturbance diagnosis, that the class she needed was “full” and that the school would not accommodate her.
“After I took her IEP to the school, that’s when they shot me down,” James said. “That was really ugly discrimination.”
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Over the last week, while lazing around in northeastern Massachusetts, I read several back issues of Rolling Stone magazine. In one of the them I learned that Steven Van Zandt was on tour with his band Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. Back in the 1980s when Mr. Van Zandt was recording and releasing his albums with this group, I actually preferred them to the recordings of the band for which he was best known. I speak, or course, of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. For some reason, only the first album from Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, Men Without Women, is a available on the streaming music service to which I subscribe.
And if you watched the crime drama The Sopranos, then you probably know that Mr. Van Zandt ably, and often with dark humor, played “gentlemen’s club” (ahem) owner and member of Tony Soprano’s inner circle Silvio Dante.
In other words, Steven Van Zandt is a protean talent. Reading the article on him in Rollng Stone, I learned that his current tour was expressly in appreciation of teachers, and that the proceeds from the tour would be used to continue building a website for teachers called TeachRock that provides lesson plans and curriculum on popular music. I just established an account there because it looks like very good material.
Although I’m just sayin’, you might want to take a look. And thank you, Steven Van Zandt.
[Lately, I have been concerned–obsessed might be a better word, frankly–with the abysmally low standards of professionalism in the New York City school in which I serve; now comes this. Yeesh.]
Diane Ravitch's blog
Jan Resseger writes here about Betsy DeVos’s decision to overrule a strong recommendation from Department career staff and resinstate an accrediting agency with a terrible record.
Before the Obama Department of Education put the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) out of business in 2016, ACICS had been instrumental in accrediting a number of unscrupulous, for-profit colleges whose fiscal survival depended on attracting students bringing dollars from federal loans. After ACICS was put out of business by the Obama Department of Education, ACICS filed a lawsuit claiming its record had not been fully examined. In March of this year, a federal judge ruled in favor of the accreditation agency—saying that the Department of Education still needs to consider 36,000 pages of information ACICS submitted that was never considered. On April 3, 2018, after the judge’s ruling, Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos conditionally reapproved ACICS pending further study.
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[I’ve been waiting for Diane Ravitch to post something on this egregious policy move, and here it is. I don’t know what to say about this, other than Secretary DeVos appears impervious to facts and reasoning–and that’s never a good trait in a cabinet secretary in the federal government.]
Diane Ravitch's blog
Betsy DeVos and her school safety commission (three other Cabinet members) will consider all the possible causes of gun violence in schools, except guns.
Alia Wong writes at The Atlantic:
“What should be on the list of tasks for President Trump’s newly minted school-safety commission, charged with studying what can be done to prevent campus violence?
“Perhaps the commission, chaired by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, should look at mental-health resources and student-discipline practices. And perhaps it should consider the design of campus facilities. One thing that would seemingly be an obvious candidate for the commission’s scrutiny is guns, as guns have been the weapon of choice in every major school-violence incident this year.
“And yet it became clear on Tuesday, as DeVos testified in front of a Senate subcommittee to answer questions about the Education Department’s fiscal year 2019 budget request, that will likely not be the case. Amid…
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[More squalor from the callow heiress who bought herself the Secretary of Education cabinet post, Betsy DeVos.]
Diane Ravitch's blog
Bill Black, a specialist in white-collar crime, discusses Betsy DeVos’ plan to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education team investigating fraud at those predatory for-profit colleges and to staff the Department with veterans of the institutions under investigation. Like many people, I have described her actions as “putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.” Black says it is far worse than that. The right metaphor, he says, is putting the vampire in charge of the blood bank. What is happening now is not just a policy dispute; it is a deliberate program to protect institutional behavior that should be treated as criminal fraud. The victims are college students who are poor and middle-class, who have every right to expect that the government will protect them against fraud, not enable the fraud.
This is only a part of the interview. Open the link and read the rest.
GREGORY WILPERT: It’s…
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[In my 15 years of service to the New York City Department of Education, I have wondered, as teachers are regularly pilloried in the local and national press for being incompetent, but protected by their union from discharge, why incompetent and corrupt school administrators–and God knows I’ve seen my share here–enjoy an apparent immunity from accountability. I hope this blog post from Diane Ravitch, and the report it chronicles, can do something to change that. As a New York City taxpayer and educator, I would like to see principals and assistant principals held responsible for their failures, something I really have not seen in my tenure here.]
Diane Ravitch's blog
Susan Edelman, reporter at the New York Post, often gets scoops, and this one is a doozy.
Several principals have been accused of sexual harassment. Some have caused the city to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars for their misconduct, but they are seldom punished. Instead they are reassigned to headquarters with their pay and pension intact.
When Shaunte Penniston complained that her principal was making sexual demands, the city Department of Education not only failed to investigate, she alleged, but immediately notified the principal — who promptly had her fired.
The teacher then filed a lawsuit, which has dragged on in court for five years, the city fighting it at every step. But even if Penniston wins her case, it’s too late for the DOE to punish her alleged tormentor, Antonio K’tori. Under state law, educators with tenure cannot be brought up on disciplinary charges more than three…
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