Archive for July, 2012

July 19, 2012

Hot Enough for You? Time to Teach Against Fossil Fuels

By Bill Bigelow. Published July 16, 2012 by rethinkingschoolsblog

“So McKibben does the arithmetic. To remain under the 2-degree threshold, we need to emit no more than 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide over the next 40 years. As he puts it, “It’s like saying if you want to keep your blood alcohol level legal for driving, you can’t drink more than eight beers in the next six hours.” But here is the problem. Analysts have calculated that all the claimed reserves from fossil fuel—coal, oil, and natural gas—companies add up to 2,795 gigatons, five times more than the maximum allowable, even in a scenario that itself is fraught with climate danger.

“Here’s another way of saying it: We need to leave at least 80 percent of that coal and gas and oil underground,” McKibben writes. “The problem is, extracting and burning that coal and oil and gas is already factored into the share prices of the companies involved—the value of that carbon is already counted as part of the economy.” This would be the equivalent of these companies writing off $20 trillion.

For those of us who take climate science seriously, I think that we’re left with an inescapable conclusion: It’s not enough to teach about fossil fuels, we have to teach against fossil fuels. Any curriculum discussion that fails to address the threat posed by fossil fuel consumption to humanity and the future of all life on earth is profoundly irresponsible.”

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July 17, 2012

Chicago’s teachers could strike a blow for organised labour globally

If the fight to halt school budget cuts in Obama’s Democratic heartland succeeds it would be a huge boost for unions

By . Published July 16, 2012 by the Guardian/UK

Last month, approximately 90% of Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) members voted for strike action. Only 1.82% voted against. This was a shock to the local administration.

Not only is this the heart of Obama country, where unions are expected to play ball with the Democrats in an election year. It is also a city where, thanks to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, teachers are not allowed to strike unless more than 75% of union members vote for it.

Yet it is not just the local establishment that will be unsettled here. This is getting national attention in the US, and a strike could be an embarrassment to President Obama. Moreover, it could re-ignite the American labour movement at a time of global unrest.

The basis of this dispute is what is innocuously termed “school reform”. This is a process of privatisation and union-busting. Since the 1990s, Chicago has been a laboratory for such reforms, which have been rolled out across the country. The programme enjoys the support of the Democratic leadership as well as leading pro-Obama liberals such as Davis Guggenheim, whose film Waiting for Superman was a lengthy attack on teaching unions and a tribute to private schools.

Chicago intends to open 60 new privatised, non-union “charter” schools in the next five years. Public schools are being closed to make way for this change and capital spending has been slashed. The CTU’s new leadership has been driving a campaign to tackle chronic underfunding in Chicago schools, and broaden the curriculum. They describe the system as one of “educational apartheid”, and demand an elected school board which reflects the needs of the city’s population.

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July 14, 2012

Larger Class Sizes, Education Cuts Harm Children’s Chance To Learn

By . Published July 14, 2012 by The Huffington Post
“Unlike a shrunken police or fire department, the impact of school cuts isn’t always obvious. There are no bodies in the streets, no charred evidence of harm done. That has made school systems attractive targets for austerity-minded politicians across the country.
Thirty-four states have slashed their K-12 education budgets since 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Making sure class sizes don’t explode nationwide would cost $10 billion annually, according to a March reportfrom the Southern Regional Educational Board.

But impact of these cuts is visible when you look at kids like Shania, and the ripple effects can last a lifetime. Earlier grades are especially important, because that’s when students learn the fundamentals — how to read, write, add and subtract — that undergird the rest of their education. Studies have shown that students who don’t learn to read proficiently by third grade are much more likely to drop out. Third grade is also the year students start taking standardized tests, which can alter their educational futures.”

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July 12, 2012

What Really Happens When Parents Pull the “Parent Trigger?”

By Will Dooling and Brendan Fischer. Published July 5, 2012 by PR Watch

Democrats at the U.S. Conference of Mayors have recently backed “parent trigger” laws that allow parents to seize control of their public schools and fire the teachers and principal, or privatize the schools — a policy also supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute.

Is the “Parent Trigger” a successful plan for empowering parents and promoting school reform, or is it a vehicle for the private takeover of public schools?

“Parent Revolution” Gives Limited Options

Parent Trigger laws allow parents at any persistently failing school to gather a majority and either fire the principal, fire half of the teachers, or turn it into a private charter school. The laws — which have been proposed in dozens of states and become law in California, Texas, and Connecticut — have been embraced by some Democrats and groups that claim to support progressive values, despite claims by some that the laws have the impact of privatizing education.

The Parent Trigger has its roots in the George W. Bush administration’s 2001 “No Child Left Behind” plan. That law required schools that consistently failed to show progress on a battery of tests to, after five years, be placed under “restructuring,” which could include turning the school over to the state for reorganization or transforming it into a charter school.

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July 11, 2012

Addiction to High Stakes Testing is Killing US Education

by Jim Horn. Published July 11, 2012 by Common Dreams

“…We do not have to wait for field trials to understand the effects of more high-stakes “value-added” testing: more labeling of the weak as failures, more privatization, more corporate welfare school projects, more disposal of experienced teachers, more correctional officers posing as educators, more missionaries out to build their resumes and assuage their guilt with children who need the most experienced teachers, more apartheid charters run by corporations, more curriculum caste systems and “ability” grouping, less shared social and cultural capital, more competition and less collaboration among teachers, more curriculum in a box, less creative teaching, less deep learning, more homogeneity and less diversity of ideas, more social control, less autonomy and responsibility, more dependency, less ability to solve problem and think creatively, less potential to survive as a species.”

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July 8, 2012

Union presidents attack Ontario government for deal with Catholic teachers

By John Bonnar, posted July 7, 2012 at

“’This agreement ensures Ontario’s Catholic education system will continue to provide an exceptional learning environment for our students while achieving desired outcomes for our members and addressing the government’s fiscal concerns.’

But Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario president Fred Hahn, has grave concerns about how this agreement will affect students in classrooms across the province.

CUPE represents 55,000 school board support workers in every elementary and high school as well as Catholic and French language schools in Ontario.

‘Any attempt to force this agreement on other workers in this sector would be a mistake that the government should not make,’ said Hahn during Friday’s press conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto.

His members have proposed alternative ways to achieve savings and efficiencies without gutting collective agreements.

‘(But) the government is not prepared to listen to creative ideas. They’re only interested in their own parameters.’

School boards across Ontario have already announced hundreds of layoffs, with more planned in the future.

‘The Liberals cannot say that they are protecting our education system when they are removing millions of dollars from it,’ he said.

‘Without the teachers, secretaries, custodians, instructors, education assistants, the food service workers and the bus drivers there is no education system.’”

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July 7, 2012

10 Must-See Videos Documenting the Quebec Student Strike

By Robert Green

If you’re a political junkie like me you’ve probably spent the last few months discussing the issues surrounding the Quebec student strike: tuition hikes, police brutality,  special laws, the challenges of movement building, etc. As an open and vocal supporter of the student strike one inevitably encounters echos of the English media’s characterization of the students as entitled and violent. Fortunately, there have been a number of excellent videos produced that have been of great use in countering such perceptions. This post is my attempt to assemble 10 of the best such videos in one location so they can be easily shared.

Overview of the movement:

Red Square Revolt


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