Inside Philanthropy: The Scariest Trends

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

David Callahan wrote an insightful article in “Inside Philanthropy” about something that most of us have noticed: the growing power of foundations that use their money to impose their ideas and bypass democratic institutions. In effect, mega-foundations like Gates and Walton use their vast wealth to short circuit democracy.

Callahan identifies five scary trends but they all boil down to the same principle: Unaccountable power is supplanting democracy.

He writes:

“1. The growing push to convert wealth into power through philanthropy

“Look at nearly any sector of U.S. society, and you’ll find private funders wielding growing power. Most dramatic has been the reshaping of public education by philanthropists like Gates and the Waltons, but the footprint of private money has also grown when it comes to healthcare, the environment, the economy, social policy, science, and the arts.

“Whether you agree or disagree with the specific views pushed by private funders…

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Community Colleges: The Neglected but Worthy Stepchildren of American Education

Kiersten Marek:

Wow, really great food for thought. We need to do more to support community colleges.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

In this excellent article in the New York Times about the plight of community colleges, Ginia Bellafante shows the dramatic disparity in fund-raising between community colleges and other sectors of American education. The wealthiest benefactors and philanthropists shower millions on their alma mater, such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, but the alumni of community colleges are unlikely to be billionaires. The hedge funders shower millions on charter schools, but ignore community colleges, which serve twice as many students but are not as chic as charter schools.

And yet which institution is there for the least affluent members of our society? Which institutions offer a ladder into the middle class for children of poverty?

Bellafante’s article begins:

Last year at its annual gala, LaGuardia Community College, arguably the most ethnically diverse college in the country, honored Marilyn Skony Stamm, the chief executive of a global heating and air-conditioning business. A child…

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Tom Hoffman: Do You Want to Know What’s Wrong with the Common Core ELA Standards?

Kiersten Marek:

Rhode Island’s own Tom Hoffman featured on Diane Ravitch:

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Tom Hoffman, a blogger in Rhode Island, took up the challenge to explain what is wrong with the Common Core ELA standards. He does it here. He goes through them in the spirit of “close reading,” and they read like a nineteenth century approach known as “parsing,” whereby the student analyzed a sentence or a paragraph or a story in minute detail, identifying its grammatical and syntactical features. Today, promoters of the Common Core call it “critical thinking,” but if you go through Hoffman’s analysis, it sure looks like parsing, in which students are expected to read not for the joy of ideas, words, and stories, but for the interpretation and interaction of minute (and dubious) details and (possible) literary devices.

After going through exemplar texts and the questions based on them, Hoffman writes:

I am not seeking out edge cases; I’m just trying to apply the standard as written…

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Carl Sagan Explains Why We Get Bamboozled

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

This is one of the best quotes I have seen in a very long time:

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

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Steve Zimmer Calls on Billionaires to Help Kids Instead of Fighting for Control

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Millions on millions have been spent by billionaires to push through their agenda of privatization and to disrupt entire school districts, on the assumption that disruption is “creative.” No doubt, they are getting ready for the next elections, opening their wallets to anyone who promises to open more nonunion charters and to attack due process for teachers. In this statement, Steve Zimmer–who overcame a billionaire-funded candidate in his last election for the Los Angeles school board–calls for a truce. He asks the billionaires to work together with school leaders to make schools better for children, instead of squandering more millions to “win.” Win or lose, the problems for the kids remains the same. Why not collaborate and do what is best for them, which is not political but consists of meeting their needs for smaller class size, medical care, the arts, librarians, social workers, and the same kind of education…

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The Onion: DOE Promotes Online Learning for Pre-Schoolers

Kiersten Marek:

The Onion: where reality and satire sometimes collide…

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

It is getting harder and harder to separate parody from reality. In this post, The Onion tell us of a new report from the U.S. Department of Education urging online education for 3- and 4-year-olds. It is almost too close to the reality to be funny. You could read it in your local newspaper and believe it.

This is too uncomfortably close to reality:

WASHINGTON—Saying the option is revolutionizing the way the nation’s 3- and 4-year-olds prepare for the grade school years ahead, a Department of Education report released Thursday confirmed that an increasing number of U.S. toddlers are now attending online preschool. “We found that a growing number of American toddlers are eschewing the traditional brick-and-mortar preschools in favor of sitting down in front of a computer screen for four hours a day and furthering their early psychosocial development in a virtual environment,” said the report’s author, Dr. Stephen…

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