Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Machiavellian scapegoating of Atlanta teachers ignores political entrappers

The Judge in Atlanta teacher cheating case says he showed mercy when sentencing; he's right if you consider the sentencing of the people at the top of the cheating scandal.

They weren't even tried, nor does it seem as if the court system attempted to make any attempt to hold them accountable or acknowledge the flaws that inevitably led to this cheating scandal.

This is one of many cheating scandals that have been coming up around the country, although it appears as if it might be one of the most extreme ones. There is an old Russian saying "the fish rots from the head down;" which is supposed to mean that when there are people running the system at the top that are rotten the entire system inevitably becomes rotten even if those below are trying their best, at least in the beginning.

Niccolò Machiavelli described tactics that were used to maintain power and keep the "The Prince" above reproach so that his power wouldn't be challenged and people would blindly obey him. One of his most famous was to find scapegoats at low levels when problems came up and someone needed to take the blame, so that the Prince wouldn't be blamed. This usually meant that depending on how big the scandal was the lowest possible people responsible would be blamed so that the public could be convinced that the problem is being addressed even if most if not all the people closest to the Prince weren't held accountable.

Even though this is supposed to be a democratic system that seems to be exactly what is happening here.

The brief explanation about what the problem is in schools is quite simple. Schools in poor areas have never been funded properly and the so-called reforms that have escalated over the past several decades have been designed to hold teachers accountable for all the problems even though they have little or no influence on policies and they're not given adequate resources to educate children in many abandoned inner cities or other poor areas whether they're rural or suburban or urban.

Massive efforts have been made to create a testing system that ignores many of the contributing causes for these schools and doesn't try to fund schools properly. Instead of listening to teachers and the best academic resources in any given subject they have been relying on economists, propagandists and political ideologues. Instead of increasing funds for schools they've been redirecting them towards testing plans that often make profits for politically connected corporations; and the teaching methods encouraged are highly authoritarian, and many of them wouldn't be considered acceptable in wealthier schools; nor would wealthier schools consider many of the other problems in abandoned inner cities acceptable for their children. However for poor people "there are no excuses." (For those who aren't familiar with all the background several sources are listed below describing the background.)

Using another Machiavellian tactic the judge claimed that he would be lenient to those that accepted responsibility and admitted to their activities as indicated in the following article:

Judge in Atlanta teacher cheating case says he showed mercy when sentencing 04/15/2015

ATLANTA -- True to his word, a judge showed mercy to former Atlanta public school educators who accepted responsibility for their role in a widespread conspiracy to inflate student scores on standardized tests. Those who refused to admit guilt and agree to other conditions set by prosecutors, he treated much more harshly.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter had delayed sentencing by a day and encouraged the former educators to negotiate deals with prosecutors. He made it clear Monday they would face prison time if they took a chance and let him sentence them. But only two of them took deals.

On Tuesday, Baxter sentenced the eight who rejected deals to between one and seven years in jail, despite their lawyers' pleas for probation and community service. They are expected to appeal and will be free on bond while the appeals are pending.

"All I want from any of these people is just to take some responsibility, and they refuse," Baxter said, his frustration clear in clashes with defense attorneys. .....

During sentencing, Baxter called the cheating "pervasive."

"It's like the sickest thing that's ever happened in this town," he said. Complete article

He doesn't seem to be acknowledging that even though his town might be among one of the worst that have been caught in cheating scandals, they're not the only ones; and there is a significant amount of evidence to indicate that the testing process was virtually guaranteed to encourage cheating. They essentially tell these teachers in an authoritarian manner that they have to accomplish their job with the resources available or they won't get the funds they need to do their job. One of the defendants told some of the others the following; and the judge didn't seem to consider the possibility that the same authoritarian tactics might have come from even higher up:

Atlanta principal to teachers: If you can’t hack it, Walmart’s hiring 01/05/2015

If teachers couldn’t meet high standards for student performance, “Walmart’s always hiring,” former Dobbs Elementary School principal Dana Evans told her teachers, according to testimony in the Atlanta schools test-cheating trial today.

The suggestion made her feel “disposable,” former Dobbs teacher Shayla Smith testified.

Evans’s attorney, Bob Rubin, disputed that account and said Evans never suggested that teachers who didn’t measure up should apply at Walmart. Complete article

They have been offering leniency to those that testified against others and not surprisingly accusations have been made against those that have testified as well. This is also a Machiavellian designed to get the kind of testimony they need without acknowledging some of the inconvenient facts of the case. Even one of the teachers testifying in court allegedly indicated that these students had major learning problems that couldn't be easily solved.

To the best of my knowledge neither the judges or lawyers for prosecution have much if any background in education and they seem to be very selective about who they're willing to listen to.

Jonathan Kozol has reported extensively on how many of the poorest children in abandoned inner cities lack many of the basic necessities in several of his books including Savage Inequalities and The Shame of the Nation as well as other books about the poverty they live with at home, especially homeless children. He's not the only one to research this but he is among the best, if not the best; anyone familiar with his work is almost certainly better informed about the root causes of educational problems than the majority of the public that relies on the traditional media for information. If people understood how many problems poor people face due to lack of resources and their parents often don't get a better education than they do then they would realize how difficult the opportunity for everyone to get ahead is for them.

People who do have access to better resources might be much less likely to understand why some of these children have such a hard time. The people that need educational opportunities from an early age the most, to break the cycle of poverty, get the least. There have been enough people that have broken this cycle to prove that it can be done if there are enough resources; and it is less expensive than dealing with the alternative, which often involves less educated people and more crime among other social problems.

Diane Ravitch is also much better informed than most if not all of the lawyers and judges handling the case; yet they don't seem interested in hearing from her either. Dina e Ravitch was actually a supporter of the testing practices before she realized how bad it was working; so at one time if we were to blame the higher ups she might have been one of them. However she recognized the problems and has done a lot to inform people about them and help efforts to reverse them; although the political establishment is now trying to minimize her influence. She wrote the following about the punishing of these teachers:

Did Atlanta Educators Get Equal Justice Before the Law? 04/06/2015

Michael Klonsky posted on his blog these photographs of some of the Atlanta educators who were investigated for cheating; 11 were convicted and sent directly to jail to await sentencing (excepting a pregnant woman.) Superintendent Beverly Hall died weeks before the verdict was handed down. He said they were “taking the fall” for “Duncan’s Testing Madness.”

In an earlier post, I said that the lesson of Atlanta is “never never never cheat.” Don’t do it, don’t tolerate it.

But as I saw educators led away in shackles, as I saw speculation that they were facing 20 years in prison, I began to think again. Yes, cheating is wrong and should never be tolerated, but this punishment does not fit the crime. It is way too disproportionate to the charges. Some criminals get lesser jail sentences for murder and armed robbery. Since when did cheating in school become racketeering?

My thinking was nudged along by three important articles about this affair.

One was by Richard Rothstein. In this brilliant article, Rothstein argued that the 11 convicted educators were “taking the fall” for a thoroughly corrupt testing regime that set impossible goals and punished those who can’t meet them:

Rothstein writes:

Eleven Atlanta educators, convicted and imprisoned, have taken the fall for systematic cheating on standardized tests in American education. Such cheating is widespread, as is similar corruption in any institution—whether health care, criminal justice, the Veterans Administration, or others—where top policymakers try to manage their institutions with simple quantitative measures that distort the institution’s goals. This corruption is especially inevitable when out-of-touch policymakers set impossible-to-achieve goals and expect that success will nonetheless follow if only underlings are held accountable for measurable results. Complete article

Both Diane Ravitch and the sources she cites have far more educational background than the judges, lawyers, economists, and propagandists that are involved in the decision making process, yet they don't want to here from them when they make policies, and inevitably disasters have been happening and they need someone to blame. Washington D.C. is also one of the schools that have been involved in cheating scandals, yet they managed to avoid putting any blame on Michelle Rhee who ran those schools before the scandals; they seem to want people to believe that since she left before the worst of it was exposed she bears no responsibility.

Even without as extensive background as some of these more reliable experts I can recognize how foolish this is. I remember the first day of school one day when the teacher informed us that we were having a test that day, which he was passing out. Before anyone could express shock or object he quickly said not to worry, since we wouldn't be graded on the test. He told us that he had created this test, at the local level so he could do a better job deciding how to educate us and what to focus on during the year.

This kind of test actually made sense; and the teachers in that school would almost certainly have been outraged, and possibly are now, by the current system. The current testing system doesn't allow local control to adjust for many potential problems that might arise and the children with the most trouble are likely to be the poorest. On top of that the wealthiest are much less likely to accept this corporate take over of schools; and they have the political clout to avoid having to do so.

In Authoritarianism I attempted to explain how abuse at an early age can be used to tech children to blindly obey without question at an early age and do so throughout life. That is essentially what is dominating this school reform debate. In several other posts including, Does child abuse and bullying lead to more violence? and Child abuse and bullying link in study long over due, I also attempted to explain how the same child rearing tactics also lead to escalating violence and teaches children to get their way by using coercion, instead of critical thinking. Some of the reforms that the political establishment is trying to advance are likely to roll back many of the improvements that this type of education has brought about over the last few decades, since the so-called Spock generation. Benjamin Spock wasn't the only one involved in the earlier child rearing reforms but he was the best known and this is almost certainly a major reason for the reduction in violence in this country since then; but it is in danger of being reversed.

These reform methods are designed to restore many of the authoritarian methods that we have been warned about and they have led to many past conflicts including increased potential for war.

However these methods aren't being pushed on the children of the rich, only the poor and as in several other cases in the relatively recent past when poor people, especially minorities, try to get a good education for their children they often face retaliation including the following stories about minorities that have been prosecuted for getting an education for their children in better schools by sending them to different towns; many white people did the same thing without fear of prosecution, sometimes successfully, although some of them were transferred back to lower income schools

Class warfare in school: arresting moms for educating kids

Education is being criminalized, especially minorities!!

Throwing School Mom in Jail~

I don't see how there can be any doubt; this is blatant class warfare and it is being initiated by those with the most political power, not the middle or lower classes, as media propaganda often implies, and as Warren Buffet says, "My class is winning."

For now.

We need a major wake up call and it may ahve already begun although you won't hear about it in the traditional media.

The following are some additional related articles starting with one of my older blogs about bashing teachers and others from outside sources:

Bashing Teachers

Prison time for some Atlanta school educators in cheating scandal 04/15/2015

Atlanta Judge Imposes Jail Time and Fines on Convicted Educators 04/14/2015

I Signed a Petition to Judge Baxter on Behalf of Atlanta Educators 04/12/2015

APS defendants seek judge’s removal 05/03/2014

"Poverty Is the Problem" With our Public Schools, Not Teachers' Unions 08/26/2011

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