A Bit of Buzzz

I thought the season recommended this…

Invite all to the Way
Of thy Lord with wisdom
And beautiful preaching;
And argue with them
In ways that are best
And most gracious:
For thy Lord knows best,
Who have strayed from His Path,
And who receive guidance.
And if ye do catch them out,
Catch them out no worse
Than they catch you out:
But if ye show patience,
That is indeed the best course
For those who are patient.
And do thou be patient,
For thy patience is but
From God; nor grieve over them:
And distress not thyself
Because of their plots.
For God is with those
Who restrain themselves,
And those who do good.

No Pledge, No Anthem, No Chauvinism

A Letter to the Anchorage School Board regarding the proposal to force Anthem Listening
*****************
Dear Board,

Once again it would appear that Mr. Donley 1 promotes a bizarre and inappropriate “solution” to address an as yet unrealized problem.

I initially supposed that Mr. Donley felt that a full and comprehensive study of our unsingable US National Anthem  — only adopted in 1931 for the purposes of promoting Maryland —  a product of plagiarism from a tune known far and wide as a celebrating drinking song, the lyrics of which were written by a racist observer of a bombardment that was the result of ludicrous policy implemented by the Jeffersonians, leading to a war that no one in their right mind wanted, that was a huge embarrassment to the US —  should rightfully be the subject of study by public school students for the purpose of increasing national cohesion through an appreciation of American exceptionalism. 2

NOT SO! Mr. Donley wrote that all he wants is to play the National Anthem, without apparently addressing any of the odious aspects thereof, and ignoring the invitation thereby to all our students to “take a knee” during its playing. Excuse me, but it really sounds like Mr. Donley is looking to create not only a problem, but a basis upon which to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees. I wasn’t aware we had that money to burn.

Mr. Donley says he is concerned about history and civics, and yet he seems not to have learned anything about either. Mr. Justice Frankfurther once expounded opinions much like those promoted by Mr. Donley 3 If you did not know who the author was, you might be forgiven for thinking it was Himmler…

National unity is the basis of national security. * * * The ultimate foundation of a free society is the binding tie of cohesive sentiment. Such a sentiment is fostered by all those agencies of the mind and spirit which may serve to gather up the traditions of a people, transmit them from generation to generation, and thereby create that continuity of a treasured common life which constitutes a civilization. We live by symbols. The flag is the symbol of our national unity, transcending all internal differences, however large, within the framework of the Constitution.

No wonder that opinion lasted only three years.

Whatever Mr. Donley’s delusions of his childhood, flags have rarely been unifying in anything but battle, as flags, like anthems, serve only as litmus tests, and are senseless in a pluralistic society. The US National Anthem signifies the unlawful acts associated with the international hegemony that the US has pursued for decades. It signifies the governmental misconduct with respect to a long list of populations. It signifies repression, at home and abroad. “But not so!”, you cry. But you, living in your Norman Rockwell glass bubble, are not the arbiter of universal reality, and millions of Americans have applauded actions taken during the anthem for the purpose of exercising free speech regarding this country’s horrific abuses (now in the limelight more than ever)!

If you want cohesion, bond over a common understanding of our history, good, bad, AND ugly. Bond over a universal sense of compassion and good will to all (an aesthetic apparently denigrated by both our State and Federal Administrations). Bond over a commitment to education and facing the world and the future intelligently ans rationally (as opposed to attacking teachers, slashing educational budgets, and demeaning academia).

The world Mr. Donley wants to recapture is gone forever, if it ever existed. It is time for Mr. D to either decide to join the 21st Century or be relegated to the trash heap of U.S. History, along with the culture warriors now playing “gubmint” in Juneau. YOU, however, are in the business of educating children. It is high time you got on with that, whether or not Mr. Donley is up to it.

Painting of Anacreontics

Anacreontick’s in full song, by James Gillray (died 1815), published 1801.

Preamble Lost

A few comments about HRes 109, the Green New Deal 1

The Western Caucus’ response to the Resolution 2  sounds just like the folk who pushed to end the “war on coal” and enable dumping of spoil in waterways.3

After a parade of horribles (declarations by the paid Congressional shills owned by the energy extraction industries), the caucus makes the bald faced claims that

The Green New Deal would:

  • Intertwine the federal government in every aspect of our daily lives,
  • Overhaul American energy, manufacturing, and transportation sectors,
  • Jeopardize jobs and take-home income of hundreds of thousands of Americans,
  • Expand the power of federal bureaucrats far beyond what our Founding Fathers ever intended,
  • Impede the energy efficiency and carbon capture research and development industry has invested in, moving America further away from our emission goals,
  • Destabilize our electric grid and energy dominance and independence compromising our national security, and
  • Undermine federalist principles our nation was built upon.

Whoa!!!!! As one can easily see, there is no evidence tat the Resolution would do ANY of this. I am waiting to see documentation by the Western Caucus evidencing, well, anything.

I strongly suggest that EVERYONE actually read HRes 109 and if you are seeking to convince others how horrific it is, I would argue that the onus is on you to provide a sectional analysis (that’s what rational folk do). I for one would like to know what is problematic with pledging

(D) to secure for all people of the United States for generations to come—
(i) clean air and water;
(ii) climate and community resiliency;
(iii) healthy food;
(iv) access to nature; and
(v) a sustainable environment;

Sounds very much like what the US Constitution requires of our federal government. The preamble states

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

If you want to frighten yourself, go see a Manoj Nelliyattu “M. Night” Shyamalan movie. In the meantime, unplug from Fox News, try to be critical when you read or hear rants from people trying to suck your life blood and render your community a toxic desert, and do try to behave in a manner that suggests that you are a rational person entitled to enfranchisement.

 

 

 

 

 

Right to the Gut

The modern approach to property is to see property as a “bundle of sticks”, abandoning the 17th Century notions (the ones that today are touted as the basis for libertarianism) as largely foolishness. This jurisprudential analysis bore fruit in the discussion by Hohfeld of jural correlatives over a century ago.1 2 Philosophically, this echos the development of the social sciences, and the recognition that Homo sapiens is closer to termites3 than one might expect. In other words, we are tribal and symbiotic, and may very well be largely a function of what our group and our gut mandate.

Practically speaking, we are intersections of complex matrices (a high tech verbalization of “bundle of sticks”). There is no such thing as ownership; there is only these complex relationships. To say that Locke’s idea that we own ourselves is not to say that someone else owns us, but to say the very notion of ownership is something only a child might entertain.

Even with this realization, as Justice Johnson notes 4, the forces that drive our jurisprudence still try to focus on only one side of the balance, as it were, and the judicial appointments of culture warriors hearten such ideological forays. As Johnson puts it, “Professor Hohfeld brought legal jurisprudence a long way by giving courts the analytical tools to understand property as a set of interdependent relations that involved both rights and obligations. That work evolved into the bundle of rights, but there has been much more emphasis on the rights, and less on the obligations. Any new theory of property rights has to emphasize broader obligations, as well as rights, if we are to confront the fairness question.”

When we hear people like Mia Love preach possessive Narcissism, when we see mobs rallying to “I built it”, we are seeing the ignorant response to the demagogues call to shed the mantle of responsibilities that all members of any society wear. Indeed, in one of many inconsistent moments Locke actually makes it clear that while individuals should have the right to elect membership in a polity, once the election has been made, the individual is caught and held fast by the tyranny of the majority (and taxes are not theft).

In sum, we are perhaps better defined by our obligations than by our “rights”. As potlatch societies recognize, status is maintained by what is given, not by what is taken. One’s position in any society is dependent on the myriad relations one manages with all the other persons and things one lives among. Hubris, at its core, is the belief that the individual is wholly responsible for their own destiny, and has been the subject of scorn for millennia. It is our great challenge that we face its resurgence today.

Consensus

In a Facebook discussion  1  stemming from Andy Hollman’s posting of Jacob Bera’s recent piece for the AASB 2 questions of the value of one of AkDEED’s experiments in teacher assessment were raised, and as it seemed to me that the discussion was turning away in part from a focus on what Jacob had to say, I thought I would start a thread focused on that alone.

AkDEED, face with continuing concerns with regard to evidence-based certification and assessment of teachers, decided to look at whether a consensus could be produced regarding appropriate praxis. AkDEED enlisted the assistance of hundreds of Master Teachers who then watched hours of videos of teachers teaching, rating performances on multiple scales. These volunteers then reviewed and discussed what they saw, why they rated the video the way they did, and how any differences might be resolved.

Now, the use of videos as a tool for teacher evaluation is widely accepted (it is in fact a major element of National Certification3 ). However, as anyone familiar with the topic will note, the teacher is free to submit any video the teacher wishes, and may redo the video over and over, and even school their students in performing for the video. So one can see that using video is at best fraught and dubious (yet it is one fundamental to one of Jacob’s arguments, but that is for another discussion …)

What I wish to address here, and what I tried to point out there, are some of the premises underlying any evaluation. There are two matters that are particularly of concern: 1) the manner in which any evaluation rubric is established, and 2) the manner in which evaluators (NBPTS uses the terms “assessors”) are qualified. To put that into rather simple language, can we agree on what good teaching is, and can we identify individuals who can sniff that out?

AKDEED adopted an Aristotelian, rather than a Platonic model. In other words, AkDEED thought they would crowdsource from those who would likely really understand the subtleties of educational praxis. We can arguably contrast that with NBPTS, which self-selected persons to set up a system to find those like themselves. I won’t argue the pros or cons of either methodology here; my focus here is on whether one can expect to obtain a consensus from experts on what those experts are supposed to be doing.

In a sense, AKDEED developed a practical exercise in what can be described as a modified Delphi method, running various prompts repeatedly through a group of experts to see if consensus about what good teaching is could be obtained.  Note that this part of the process has little or nothing to do with how the videos were prepared.  The focus is on whether what is being viewed is evidence of good teaching. In fact, such videos are used as part of educational instructional across the country.

The results were problematic. There was little agreement on what good teaching was, and some rather heated arguments about what wasn’t. In as much as the responses to videos were arguably more dependent on a teacher’s philosophy than on the evidence that of course made it just as difficult to grapple with the second horn; it was going to be virtually impossible to get any cadre of evaluators to agree on most anything.

Many teachers will assume that they and their colleagues are all extremely competent, but absent broad opportunities for peer review, those views seem more a collection of prejudices than evidence-based conclusions. I have to consider how teachers are “prepared”, and I see little that argues that first year teachers hired from UAA are by virtue of their degree, competent to teach. Whatever your thoughts about the management of ASD, it would appear that ASD has essentially agreed with me for some time. No, I am not saying that all UAA teachers are useless twits; I am saying that we have little evidence to show that they are competent independent professionals.

I have been inordinately lucky in some respects. I have had many teachers observe my teaching and have been able to observe many teachers across numerous subject areas and levels. Personally I think that is invaluable experience and is why I am a proponent of peer review. But then I see teaching like excellent theater, an approach I think not shared by all that many.

But to return to the focus of this reflection, if teachers can’t develop a consensus, then they are either agreeing that anything goes, or that they will knuckle their forehead to some arbitrary authority (who may be a philosopher king, or a tantrumming tyro.) I am not a fan of Doors 2 and 3.

From Soup to Nuts

I was a bit taken aback by a Facebook comment shared recently by John Fulton 1, a person I know to be intelligent, compassionate, giving, sensitive, and a devout Catholic.

It breaks my heart and shatters my soul to see the depravity that our society has perpetuated today.

New York not only legalized abortion to the day of the child’s birth, but they also removed protections in the event the child survives, they can still murder the child with impunity. They removed the requirement of abortions to be performed by doctors. The slap in the face was the signing of the bill by New York governor Andrew Cuomo, a purported Catholic.

As a faithful Catholic Christian and Knight of Columbus, it sickens me. The fight for the sanctity of life has always been one of the most important moral issues that exists. I pray the rosary daily, contribute what I can to organizations that forward that cause, and participate in what events I can to hopefully end this culture of death and disregard for God’s greatest gift whether it is at conception or towards the natural end of life.

Curiously enough, John ends his tribulation with a  borrowed piece entitled, Intercessions for Those Involved in Abortion 2 the last stanza of which is borrowed from Jeremiah. 3

How did the Roman Catholic Church come to see abortion as depraved?

As an Irishman recently was want to say, “It is interesting to wonder though, by which revelation was it made known to the Roman Catholic Church that heaven does not approve of abortion?” 4 Somehow, Western society has gone from entertaining the notion of creation from a cosmic soup to unfettered procreation, and it’s of import to more than just the Irish how we got here (and what can be done about it)!

Certainly, Jewish law at the time and since has been that a fetus is not a person until most of it has emerged from the mother. Nor is there any credible argument that the New Testament holds otherwise. That did not serve to stop Christian theologians from trying to rule women’s bodies, as even the shortest review on the topic suggests. 5 It is difficult to take the depth of Catholic feeling all that serious though, when so many historians have demonstrated the rather dubious adoption of such policy by the Church (I am reminded of Catholics who taunt Muslims about Ramadan, but are actually wholly ignorant that their obligations during Lent are strikingly similar, lol).

My bottom line is that when one looks at the overall policy of the Church, it would appear to be in many respects focused on unbridled breeding, and the inevitable death and misery that entails. Yes, I have to argue that anyone who subscribes to such nonsense, not as an historical artifact that should be remembered but set aside now that we know better, but as present guidance for survival on Earth, is INSANE.

and I have to ask you, what do YOU want to do with all these insane persons?

 

Just Another Simple Solution

There’s no easy way to put this, so I might as well come out and just say it: Mr. Donley appears to be very confused.1 Unfortunately this is only to be expected from the silver bullet crowd who invariably see all problems as susceptible to simple solutions, solution simple solutions that they, of course, have at the ready.

Social promotion has been a concern for years 2, but it is not the source of the problem. The  reason for social promotion is that we have a system largely based on age based cohorts. And for most of a students school years, and removal from their age cohort is a kin to branding the child as “defective”.

Many educators have pointed out ways to address retention and social promotion 3 and underlying may of those recommendations is the fact that  if schools moved to a skill based system as opposed to an age based system, artifacts like social promotion would disappear, especially as the granularity of the skill based modules is increased. In fact, some of the more successful programs on view in schools attempt to exploit just such options, like Walk to Read 4, where students are grouped across classrooms for reading instruction.

Certainly there are challenges to any educational system. A typical criticism of skill based cohort management is that this is simply “tracking”5 and that tracking breeds elitism. Gross tracking could clearly lead in that direction, but effective course management and the distribution of children make it pretty clear that such results might only be seen for 3 of a thousand children, all of whom would have been entitled to IEPs as exceptional children until the likes of Mr Donley “fixed” the Alaska Statutes.

But changing the cohort system is not just a different “silver bullet”; it is not a comprehensive solution. Not only do we need to change the cohort system to focus on instruction (instead of focusing on “management”) but we also need to implement early childhood and Pre-K surveillance, assessment, and service,  as well as clinical intervention to address fundamental inadequacies in literacy and numeracy. It is not like we can hide our heads in the sand any more; we KNOW that early deficiencies in reading WILL result in likely trauma, incarceration, etc.6 Spend the money now, or spend the money later.

Lastly, let me note that this is not likely a sudden inspiration on Mr. Donley’s part. With the election of the current Governor, we will be seeing a bill along the same lines introduced in the legislature . 7 I don’t want to fault Republican legislators for being concerned about education; but endorsing a corporate package unsupported by actual research is a recipe for disaster.

 

Far From Indivisible, Alaska

I recently received the mailer below from the Wright campaign. I tried to post that mailer, together with my “call to action” 1 to the Indivisible Alaska Facebook group 2, which touts as its purpose:

We are pursuing the Indivisible Team’s strategy (please read indivisibleguide.com). We resist Trump’s racist, authoritarian, and corrupt agenda by focusing on local, defensive congressional advocacy. We demand that our own local Members of Congress serve as our voice in Washington, DC. We model inclusion, respect, and fairness in all of our actions.

This is an action-oriented group with Call to Actions. We understand the frustrations and anxiety in these times. However, if you wish to express your concerns and anxieties, there are other groups on facebook such as Alaskans Stronger Together and Indivisible in Alaska and Indivisible Rapid Response Team, that are forums for general disappointment.

This group is action-oriented as described by indivisibleguide.com. For that reason, the posts are moderated so we do not dilute our Call to Actions.

Before inviting other friends to this action-oriented group, please inform them that they will need to answer these question before they are approved for membership.

Our most recent Call to Action will be pinned at the top of the discussion. Please help us with our Calls to Action (phone calls, visits to local Congressional offices, etc.), at least once a week.

My “call to action”?
Please call Stanley (9077430459) and ask him for specifics!

Ask him what he specifically was opposed to in SB 91 (here’s the engrossed bill http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Text/29?Hsid=SB0091Z and an ADN piece on misconceptions https://www.adn.com/…/how-sb-91-has-changed-alaskas-crimin…/ so you can score his responses) Ask him what he thinks of SB 54 (http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Text/30?Hsid=SB0054Z), why he thinks that SB 54 did not “fix” SB91. Ask him what he specifically thinks the incumbent should have but didn’t do with respect to SB54. Ask him where his proposed legislation can be found for your review.

Please ask Stanley on what occasions the incumbent voted to cut the PFD, and why the incumbent voted on each occasion to cut the PFD, as well as what he specifically would have done to avoid cutting the PFD (“cut the budget” is NOT an answer.)

And ask Stanley why he thinks the incumbent, who has been a vociferous advocate for educational funding, should be replaced by someone who will hopefully either be in the House minority, or will be forced to vote to cut educational spending (the mantra of the state GOP).

It is time to make Republican candidates realize that running on truthiness will no longer be tolerated.

Direct, issue grounded, respectful, and to the point. My submission was not approved.

I was a bit miffed because not only was my submission clearly within the pale of posts previously approved for the group, but because the Group allowed two threads to burgeon that spewed inaccurate vitriol attacking Judges Corey and Wolverton, who are presently the targets of another mob campaign by those who, clueless about how our system works, simply want to just hang the most convenient person.

When I asked one of the admins, Kathleen Smith Goodman, why my post was not approved, but the admins allowed the mob rants about the Judges, I received this message:

Your post needs to be toned down. Make it more direct with a quick ask and it will be reviewed again and more likely looked at by more people in the group. We are not a discussion group or a place to air your frustrations. You may look to these other sites for that, such as Alaskans Stronger Together and Indivisible in Alaska and Indivisible Rapid Response Team, that are forums for general disappointment and further discussion. I have had no requests from other members to remove comments on judges.

So much for “indivisible” Alaska.

Once again, an hysterical self-appointed purity patrol has rolled out the guillotine to lop off the head of anyone who is not as manic as they are. I invite all rational Alaskans to join this group (if you are not a member already) and post your disgust with such witch hunting.


The Short Shrift: Socialism Versus Social Activism

Bernie Sanders has called out Amazon in the BEZOS Act, and Jacobin Magazine says its time for socialists to organize at Amazon, but I can’t help wondering if this activism misses the soul of socialism as the increase in wages comes at the loss of access to ownership.

Setting aside the rants of the Randian culture warriors,  most have seen ownership of the means of production as the keystone of socialism.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product. 1

Unfortunately, in the US the big union money typically moves in the other direction, with health and welfare funds and pension funds being managed by greedy Wall Street bankers solely on the basis of monetary return (which amounts to workers essentially capitalizing rentiers).

The value of Amazon stock is now about $1800/share, with a market capitalization of a bit over $900B, much of that owned by institutional investors and mutual funds. So, in broad terms all that needs to happen to make Amazon a socialist powerhouse is to finance employee purchase of $450B in stock.

The alternative, no matter how noble it might appear from time to time, amounts to begging or blackmailing, as Amazon’s market power is arguably no match for activists. 2

But is worker ownership of a behemoth like Amazon a pipe dream? Now that is an organizational question  worth pondering. Rather than propose that thousands of militant socialists seek employment at Amazon quietly for the purpose of an October Revolution, why not organize for the takeover of the company; it is certainly just a “doable” as rendering Amazon a union shop, and it makes “labor” management.

Seems to me that if one is going to hitch one’s wagon to Hope and Change, then charging into the fray for the purposes of continuing to be regarded as beggars at the gate is not all that inviting.