Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Charter schools’ worst nightmare: A pro-union movement may change charters forever

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2015/07/18/charter_schools_worst_nightmare_a_pro_union_movement_may_change_charters_forever/

A growing number of charter school teachers want to unionize, the American Prospect's Rachel M. Cohen tells Salon

Saturday, Jul 18, 2015

When you think of charter schools, there are probably a few people and concepts that come to mind: Michelle Rhee, “grit,” Bill Gates, Eva Moskowitz, KIPP, etc. And if you happen to think of teachers unions at some point during this education policy reverie, you’ll probably have them in the role they’re traditionally assigned by the media — as anti-charter and anti-reform. Just like Israelis and Palestinians, Crips and Bloods, Yankees and Red Sox, teachers unions and the charter movement simply don’t like each other. That’s just the way it is.

But according to a recent piece in the American Prospect by Rachel M. Cohen, the truth of how charters and unions relate to one another is more complicated. It turns out that there are some charter school teachers out there who’ve started to think a union isn’t such a bad idea after all; and their ranks are growing. Whether it’s in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago or New York, Cohen shows, the future of education policy is very much in flux. In fact, the day when the financial backers of charters have to decide which they care about more — breaking unions or educating kids — may arrive sooner than you think.

Recently, Salon spoke over the phone with Cohen to discuss her piece, the motivations of charter teachers who are seeking to unionize, and why their success may actually bring charters closer to their historical roots and original mission. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.

How widespread are the efforts to unionize among charter teachers?

It’s definitely not the majority. They say 7 percent of all charter school teachers are currently unionized, and half of those were because the state set that up when they created the charter law. For example, in Baltimore, which I didn’t talk about in my piece, all charter school teachers are unionized, but not because they came together and started a union draft like they’re doing in Philadelphia or Chicago, where the state said you have to follow your district’s collective bargaining unit.

By no measure is it the majority, but what’s interesting now is that there are fairly larger networks of charter schools starting to do it, and if alliance charter school teachers succeed in L.A. (which is the largest charter school network), then that would impact what other smaller schools do.

What tend to be the pro-union teachers’ complaints?

Most charter school teachers work on year-to-year contracts, which does not provide great stability, especially if you’re trying to create a family.

One of the things that I saw was that charter school teachers tended to be younger, and some of the teachers that I spoke with who were in their early 30s were like, “I want to stay at this school, but if I want to get married and have kids there’s no way that I can not know if I have a job in September once May rolls around. I need to either work in a district school or unionize this school, because this whole tenuous working model is not sustainable for the kind of middle-class life I’m trying to build.” So that’s something all workers are trying to figure out how to get for themselves.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2015/07/18/charter_schools_worst_nightmare_a_pro_union_movement_may_change_charters_forever/

Drought Is Just the Beginning of Our Frightening Water Emergency

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/environment/drought-just-beginning-our-frightening-water-emergency

For years, Americans dismissed dire water shortages as a problem of the Global South. Now the crisis is coming home.

By Maude Barlow July 17, 2015

The United Nations reports that we have 15 years to avert a full-blown water crisis and that, by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent. Five hundred renowned scientists brought together by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that our collective abuse of water has caused the earth to enter a “new geologic age,” a “planetary transformation” akin to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. Already, they reported, a majority of the world’s population lives within a 30-mile radius of water sources that are badly stressed or running out.

For a long time, we in the Global North, especially North America and Europe, have seen the growing water crisis as an issue of the Global South. Certainly, the grim UN statistics on those without access to water and sanitation have referred mostly to poor countries in Africa, Latin America, and large parts of Asia. Heartbreaking images of children dying of waterborne disease have always seemed to come from the slums of Nairobi, Kolkata, or La Paz. Similarly, the worst stories of water pollution and shortages have originated in the densely populated areas of the South.

But the global water crisis is just that—global—in every sense of the word. A deadly combination of growing inequality, climate change, rising water prices, and mismanagement of water sources in the North has suddenly put the world on a more even footing.

There is now a Third World in the First World. Growing poverty in rich countries has created an underclass that cannot pay rising water rates. As reported by Circle of Blue, the price of water in 30 major US cities is rising faster than most other household staples—41 percent since 2010, with no end in sight. As a result, increasing numbers cannot pay their water bills, and cutoffs are growing across the country. Inner-city Detroit reminds me more of the slums of Bogotá than the North American cities of my childhood.

Historic poverty and unemployment in Europe have also put millions at risk. Caught between unaffordable rising water rates and the imposition of European-wide austerity measures, thousands of families in Spain, Portugal, and Greece have had their water service cut off. An employee of the water utility Veolia Eau was fired for refusing to cut supplies to 1,000 families in Avignon, France.

As in the Global South, the trend of privatizing water services has placed an added burden on the poor of the North. Food and Water Watch and other organizations have clearly documented that the rates for water and sewer services rise dramatically with privatization. Unlike government water agencies, corporate-run water services must make a profit for their involvement.


Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/environment/drought-just-beginning-our-frightening-water-emergency

Friday, July 3, 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Equal


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Seinfeld slams politically correct students for hurting comedy: “They just want to use these words, ‘that’s racist, that’s sexist, that’s prejudice’”

From Salon: http://www.salon.com/2015/06/08/seinfeld_slams_politically_correct_students_for_hurting_comedy_they_just_want_to_use_these_words_that%E2%80%99s_racist_that%E2%80%99s_sexist_that%E2%80%99s_prejudice/

The comedian thinks that PC culture, particularly on college campuses, has gone too far

and Monday, Jun 8, 2015

Speaking on ESPN Radio’s “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on Thursday, Jerry Seinfeld weighed in on the issue of political correctness as it pertains to comedy. Asked by Cowherd if PC culture hurts comedy, Seinfeld responded definitively: “Yes, it does.”

He went on: “I don’t play colleges but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges, they’re so pc.’ I’ll give you an example: My daughter’s 14. My wife says to her, ‘Well, you know, in the next couple of years, I think maybe you’re going to want to hang around the city more on the weekends so you can see boys.’ You know, my daughter says, ‘That’s sexist.’ They just want to use these words. ‘That’s racist. That’s sexist. That’s prejudice.’ They don’t even know what they’re talking about.”

This isn’t the first time Seinfeld has expressed his frustration with political correctness. Responding to criticisms about the lack of diversity on his show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” last year, Seinfeld said: “This really pisses me off. People think it’s the census or something, it’s gotta represent the actual pie chart of America. Who cares?… I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that. To me, it’s anti-comedy. It’s more about PC nonsense, than are you making us laugh or not.”

Of course, Seinfeld isn’t alone. In recent years, many comedians have spoken out about how increased audience sensitivity — particularly on college campuses — is harmful to comedic freedom. 

Chris Rock, speaking to New York Magazine last year, echoed similar sentiments saying that he has stopped playing colleges because they are too conservative “in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of ‘We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.’ Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say ‘the black kid over there.’ No, it’s ‘the guy with the red shoes.’ You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.”

Thursday, June 11, 2015

I'm a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me

From Vox:  http://www.vox.com/2015/6/3/8706323/college-professor-afraid

by Edward Schlosser
June 3, 2015

 
I'm a professor at a midsize state school. I have been teaching college classes for nine years now. I have won (minor) teaching awards, studied pedagogy extensively, and almost always score highly on my student evaluations. I am not a world-class teacher by any means, but I am conscientious; I attempt to put teaching ahead of research, and I take a healthy emotional stake in the well-being and growth of my students.

Things have changed since I started teaching. The vibe is different. I wish there were a less blunt way to put this, but my students sometimes scare me — particularly the liberal ones.

Not, like, in a person-by-person sense, but students in general. The student-teacher dynamic has been reenvisioned along a line that's simultaneously consumerist and hyper-protective, giving each and every student the ability to claim Grievous Harm in nearly any circumstance, after any affront, and a teacher's formal ability to respond to these claims is limited at best.

What it was like before

In early 2009, I was an adjunct, teaching a freshman-level writing course at a community college. Discussing infographics and data visualization, we watched a flash animation describing how Wall Street's recklessness had destroyed the economy.

The video stopped, and I asked whether the students thought it was effective. An older student raised his hand.

"What about Fannie and Freddie?" he asked. "Government kept giving homes to black people, to help out black people, white people didn't get anything, and then they couldn't pay for them. What about that?"

I gave a quick response about how most experts would disagree with that assumption, that it was actually an oversimplification, and pretty dishonest, and isn't it good that someone made the video we just watched to try to clear things up? And, hey, let's talk about whether that was effective, okay? If you don't think it was, how could it have been?

The rest of the discussion went on as usual.

The next week, I got called into my director's office. I was shown an email, sender name redacted, alleging that I "possessed communistical [sic] sympathies and refused to tell more than one side of the story." The story in question wasn't described, but I suspect it had do to with whether or not the economic collapse was caused by poor black people.

My director rolled her eyes. She knew the complaint was silly bullshit. I wrote up a short description of the past week's class work, noting that we had looked at several examples of effective writing in various media and that I always made a good faith effort to include conservative narratives along with the liberal ones.

Along with a carbon-copy form, my description was placed into a file that may or may not have existed. Then ... nothing. It disappeared forever; no one cared about it beyond their contractual duties to document student concerns. I never heard another word of it again.

That was the first, and so far only, formal complaint a student has ever filed against me.

Continue reading at:  http://www.vox.com/2015/6/3/8706323/college-professor-afraid