Thursday, February 25, 2010

Inside a Divided Upper East Side Public School

Dr. Pedro Noguera, a professor of education at NYU's Steinhardt school, and the author of The Trouble With Black Boys: And Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education, thinks it's problematic to be segregating kids from such a young age: "When you send young kids to school where the racial lines are so stark, there is the process of saying there is something fundamentally different about us, which is why we can't be together.

"Some towns, because they are homogenous, their inability to create integrated schools is limited, simply by the fact that there is nobody else there," he says. "That's not the case in New York City. What we have here is really Plessy at work: separate, without even being equal—but very much separate."

By Steven Thrasher | The Village Voice
February 23, 2010

If you're a white student and you arrive at the public elementary school building on 95th Street and Third Avenue, you'll probably walk through the front door. If you're a black student, you'll probably come in through the back.

It's a very New York kind of school facility: two completely different elementary schools sharing the same space.

The boxy, utilitarian structure was built in 1959 to house P.S.198, named after Isador and Ida Straus to commemorate the Congressman and Macy's department store owner and his wife, who both died in the 1912 sinking of the Titanic.

Since 1988, the building has shared space with another school, in a tradition that has rapidly increased under the reformist scheme of Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

In this case, it's the Lower Laboratory School for Gifted Education (P.S.77) that has been given space in the old Straus building—including the part that contains the front door.
Lower Lab is mostly composed of white students (69 percent) and Asian children, who are driven in from all over Manhattan.

Straus is zoned, which means it has to serve any child from the local neighborhood. For that reason, it's overwhelmingly Latino (47 percent) and black (24 percent).

Over the main entrance, the old sign for Straus remains, but Straus kids are told to go around to the back of the building.

Even Straus staff members are instructed by the NYPD School Safety Agent at the front door to use the rear entrance.

An African-American attorney, Granville Leo Stevens, who showed up at the front door recently on official Straus business, says he was only "grudgingly" allowed to enter the front door after he complained to the SS agent.

"It's the craziest thing I've ever seen," Stevens says.

The only people welcomed openly to the front entrance of the schoolhouse are very young kids with killer testing skills.

Lower Lab is designated as talented and gifted, and it's open throughout the Department of Education's District 2—which includes all of the Upper East Side and much of Manhattan south of Central Park—but only to youngsters who score high on tests given to them at four years of age.

In return for the high marks, the privileged kids of Lower Lab not only never have to sit in classes with the Straus children, they don't even have to mix with them on the way to school.

By 8 a.m., except for a few stragglers, the local kids walking on their way to Straus—some holding hands with parents—have all trudged up 95th Street, entered a gate, crossed a schoolyard, and disappeared into the back entrance of the building.

And that's when the other kids start showing up. Classes for Lower Lab start later—at 8:30—so at about 8 a.m., the automobiles start to arrive: Black Mercedes sedans, town cars, and taxis pull up to the curb at the front door, depositing white children onto the sidewalk. At one point, on a recent morning, there were so many black SUVs backed up that it looked like a head of state was stopping by before heading to the U.N.

Lower Lab parents often get out of their cars to walk their children the last few feet to the front door. Mom and Dad wear well-tailored jackets and suits. Several children's coats are adorned with lift tags, suggesting a weekend ski trip. And many of the Lower Lab kids arrive with musical instruments slung over their shoulders. (Lower Lab has an instrumental musical education program; Straus does not.)

Inside, the building is not divided neatly in half for the two schools. They share floors, and a Lower Lab classroom might sit right next to a Straus classroom.

There are areas that both schools share. In these spaces—hallways, for example—an emphasis has been placed on harmony: The hallways have been given names like "Respect Avenue," "Understanding Street," and "Unity Avenue."

Except for these nods to cooperation, you see signs of the division between the two schools everywhere. In a hallway, on a recent morning, there was a five-gallon water bottle for soliciting funds for Haiti disaster relief—but only from Straus people. A large bulletin board reads, "We are All Connected," and graphically connects pictures of all the teachers, assistants, and administrators—of just Lower Lab.

On a wall of "Golden Rule Avenue," there's a display of "position papers" written by a class of Straus fifth-graders. The illustrated title pages demonstrate how earnest 10-year-olds can be.

"Eat Healthy! It's good for you." "The Damaging Effects of Alcohol."

Another, "No Smoking!," features the declaration that smoking "Damages teeth!
Damages chin! [Makes a] Hole in throat! [Makes you] Lose fingers!" It's accompanied by matching drawings of finger amputation, face mutilation, and even a tracheotomy—the horrors of each rendered for maximum effect in the hand of a child using Magic Marker.
If only these earnest young moralizers were so passionate about classroom order.

"They are good children, they really are," a fifth-grade Straus teacher says as she fights a continuing battle to keep things under control. "But I have to get them to listen," she adds, her voice rising as she turns back toward her chattering flock, giving them the evil eye.

Throughout Straus, the biggest challenge of having almost 30 kids in a room seems to be controlling the chaos. Over a 40-minute period, a science teacher was observed asking her children more than 30 times to quiet down as she tried to teach a lesson about earthquakes. She scolded them and gave them disapproving looks. The students responded by staring at the floor, looking ashamed (or at least pretending to be).

Seconds later, some students tuned out the earthquake lesson and began a discussion of Nintendo DS.

The modern elementary school classroom doesn't really seem to help the situation. Gone are the rows of individual desks of yesteryear. Today's classrooms look more like the kindergartens of the past, with children sitting on carpeting or together at large tables. It's all very conducive to chatty conversation and not paying attention. The students of Straus spend nearly the entire day in groups on the floor or huddled together at tables with friends.

In this particular class, most of the students are Latino and black, and a few are recent arrivals from China. There's one white kid—and she seems utterly oblivious of her minority status.

The teacher is a stern woman whose commute can last up to two hours each way. Teaching is her second career, and she obviously has a love for it.

In the middle of a lesson, her students' chatter gets too loud. She stops speaking, and turns off the lights. First, she admonishes "those of you who don't want to learn, who are holding others back." Then she calls out another equally disruptive group: "For those of you who think you're all that, may I remind you that you still have something to learn."

In the constant battle, the teacher is always fighting on two fronts: There are those who talk because they're poor students and can't sit still in a classroom, and then there are those who interrupt because they're smart and bored.

One student from the latter group—we'll call her "Doreen"—can be as distracting as one of the troublemakers. Her intelligence shines above her peers. While her classmates are gradually starting to read simple chapter books by authors like Beverly Cleary, she's already plowing through the Twilight trilogy.

But for all her intelligence, Doreen is as likely as anyone else to disrupt the class: She's quick to get bored, and she's not especially modest about being the best. When the teacher calls out "those of you who think you're all that," her tablemate—we'll call her "Gwen"—rolls her eyes and looks at Doreen.

"She's talking about you," says Gwen.

Doreen sighs. "I think I'm all that, because I am."

"Well, why do you have to brag about it?"

"Because I am the best."

"Yeah, but if I got a 100 on a math test and you got a 90, I wouldn't act like all that and make you feel bad."

"But I got the 100, and you got the 90," Doreen sighs. "She never gets a 100," she says in an aside about Gwen.

"Be quiet, ladies!," the teacher yells, the lesson interrupted yet again.

The teacher desperately wants the Doreens of the class to do well: She is noticeably tougher on the bright kids who she knows have the intelligence but lack the discipline they'll need in the higher grades.

As a Latina in the New York City school system, Doreen's odds of finishing high school are about 50 percent. The chances that Doreen will get into a top public high school are low. Latino students make up almost 40 percent of the school system, but at premier city high schools, they are pretty rare: 8.2 percent at Brooklyn Tech, 7.7 percent at Bronx Science, 2.8 percent at Stuyvesant.

Most of the Latino children who will go to these top schools are already enrolled in talented and gifted schools—not schools like Straus. The odds are greater that a bright girl like Doreen will drop out of high school than make it to college.

Meanwhile, the odds are very different at Lower Lab. At the very least, Lower Lab kids will usually go to the NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies. Many, whose parents paid hundreds or thousands of dollars in tutoring fees for their kindergarten entrance exam, will benefit from similar training to get them into even more prestigious high schools.

It's hard to get to know Lower Lab too well: Administrators don't make it very easy even for parents of prospective pupils to observe the school. The process of getting one of the coveted 56 seats begins in October each year, a full 11 months before the first day of class.

Even a tour can't be had until you've aced the kindergarten entrance exam. According to Lower Lab's website, only 200 tours are given a year, and "qualifying families will be asked to present a qualifying letter during the tour. We kindly request that families who did not qualify for our Kindergarten or First Grade T[alented] and G[ifted] program refrain from requesting a tour as space is limited." The site refers to pre-K and kindergarten classes that don't require testing as "Non-Talented and Gifted Programs."

And in case you get any ideas that Mom and Dad might want to decide together on whether or not Lower Lab is the right fit, forget it: "Tours will be available to only one parent or guardian per qualifying family."

(School officials were just as uncooperative with Voice requests for visits, interviews, or even e-mailed responses to questions.)

From a distance, at least, it appears as if, despite being under the same roof as Straus, the children of Lower Lab are living in a completely different world. It's not just that they show up in fancy cars and wear better clothes. Nor is it even that the equipment seems newer in their classrooms, and that the science lab makes Straus's look barren by comparison. (It does.)

But, as one teacher put it, you can see the message taking hold that the children are already receiving about their station in life: "These children are babies—they're four years old—when we start separating them! When you tell them from such a young age, '

“You are more than, and you are less than,'—when you tell them 'You are gifted,' and 'You are not,' they get the message."

To hear the staff of Straus tell it, the teachers of Lower Lab—who have exclusive use of
the front door—have gotten the message that they're special, too.

"Some of those teachers, they think that because their children are 'gifted,' that makes them better teachers," says one teacher at Straus. "But why? They've already selected out the highest-achieving kids. They're easy to teach. We have to take anyone who walks in. We have to bring kids to the table."

Teachers at Lower Lab also deal with children sitting in groups, who are no doubt just as tempted to slip into conversations. But the teachers in Lower Lab have a major advantage: They have an adult- to-student ratio half that of Straus's.
It's very noticeable when there's an aide or reading specialist present in a Straus class: The teacher has a much easier time keeping kids quiet than when he or she is on their own.

Being alone is never a problem for teachers in Lower Lab. Each has a full-time teaching
assistant in the room. That's twice as much help with students who tend to bring fewer problems to the classroom to begin with. Lower Lab teachers don't have to deal so much with children who live in poverty (9 percent of Lower Lab children receive free or reduced lunch, compared to 73 percent of Straus). The rate of special education is lower (13 percent of Lower Lab to 19 percent of Straus). Even the English language isn't an issue for Lower Lab: Straus has 45 English language learners. Lower Lab? Zero.
And yet all Lower Lab classrooms are staffed with a full-time assistant teacher, paid for by a robust and powerful PTA.

The differences between the PTAs of Straus and Lower Lab may be the most stark of all. The Straus PTA is described as "almost nonexistent," "not much to talk about," and "well-meaning, butnot very powerful" by several people. One parent (incorrectly) thought Straus didn't even have a PTA.

The idea of a fundraiser for the Straus PTA is a bake sale (selling Baked Lays and other "healthy" snacks, that is). Meanwhile, Lower Lab's idea of a fundraiser is an auction. In the 2006–2007 school year, the annual auction brought in $166,289. That same year (the last for which public records are available), the Lower Lab PTA took in more than a quarter of a million dollars, and reported $424,868 in total assets.

The organization also encourages each family to donate at least $950 a year to their child's public education via a direct appeal.

It's African-American History Month, and the Straus fifth-graders are marching up "Understanding Street" to the combination library and computer lab.

Both schools maintain their own labs. Straus's isn't bad at all, and seems well-supplied with flat-screen Macs—it's questionable how much the children retain, though, as each class gets only an hour a week of computer time.

Students find a list of famous black Americans on each Mac. The teacher tells them to pick one to write an essay about, with a few caveats: "No athletes, and no entertainers."

"I know!" one child exclaims. "I'm going to do Martin Luther King!" "And no Martin Luther King," the teacher says. "Awww," goes the chorus. "But I already know about him!" "Exactly," she says. "Time to learn about someone new."

"What about Jay-Z?" "Is he an entertainer?" the teacher asks so sternly that the normally talkative child doesn't respond. "Mohammed Ali?" another child asks. "What did he do?" the exasperated teacher asks. "He was a—boxer, it says." "Is that a sport?" "Oh, yeah."

The teacher moves around the room, trying to help the students pick a subject and begin their research. One child is told he can't write about President Obama, because they've already learned too much about him, too. A lazy boy picks bell hooks. He's surprised to discover that she's a woman, let alone a feminist scholar: "I don't care. Her name starts with 'B,' and I don't want to scroll down anymore," he says, looking at the alphabetized list. "The teacher said we can't do anyone cool. This sucks."

Doreen, hearing about the prohibition on athletes or entertainers, types "boring African-Americans" into Google to find a subject.

The rebellious kids are not the ones that most worry the teacher and the librarian. It's the 10-year-olds who seem to know absolutely nothing about a computer, and are more than halfway through their fifth-grade year. One student can't find the period on her keyboard; another child doesn't know how to use a Web browser.

"How many of you have a computer at home?" the librarian asks. About a third don't raise their hands.

Getting their hands on keyboards for only an hour a week makes it hard for the teacher to make the students master and retain their "prior knowledge," a phrase the teachers in Straus repeatedly use.

Teachers seem confident about teaching their kids—getting them to retain and build upon it is another story.

Doreen's search for "boring African-Americans" hasn't yielded too many results. She has gotten it into her mind that she wants to research "that doctor who separated the conjoined twins." She thinks he's male, so she puts "African-American male" into Google, which generates banner ads that the 10-year-old girl probably shouldn't be looking at. (She finally discovers she's seeking Dr. Ben Carson.)

The part-time aide that sometimes helps out is with another class right now. Working in tandem, it's hard for the teacher and the librarian—by themselves—to attend to all of these kids, help each one individually, and prevent them from ending up on the wrong websites. They barely have time to help the children navigate the computers, let alone deal with the content of what they are actually supposed to be researching and writing.
Even the ones with computers at home, the staff knows, are more apt to play games on them than practice their word processing skills. And, come next week, they'll be starting from scratch again with some of the kids, as if this week's computer lesson never happened.

It's 6:30 p.m. in the school cafeteria, and the Lower Lab PTA is about to come to order. Except for one parent, everyone is white. Before the meeting begins, member Patrick Sullivan regales the people assembled with tales of his evening the night before.
Sullivan is Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's appointee to the Panel for Education Policy. The PEP, made up of five members appointed by the Borough Presidents and eight by Mayor Bloomberg, is the governing body of the Department of Education. Sullivan casts one of just 13 votes that control the entire school system of 1.1
million children.

The night before, the PEP had voted to close 19 struggling high schools. Each will be replaced with multiple schools, creating shared campuses like the one Straus and Lower Lab occupy. The vote came after a marathon nine-hour hearing, marked by racial tension.

Sullivan came off as the folk hero of the night. He stood up for the NAACP when testimony was cut off, to great applause from the crowd. He was one of the five dissenting votes against shutting down the schools.

In an interview with the Voice, Sullivan says that he was sympathetic to many of the protests that the mostly black and Latino parents were waging at the PEP about unequal treatment. But when asked about the inequities between the two schools in the building where his own children are students —where he is on the PTA—he didn't seem to view inequality the same way.

Does he think, for example, that there is a negative effect from having two racially segregated schools under the same roof?

"No, I don't think it has an effect," he says.

"[Lower Lab] is a gifted and talented program, and [Straus] isn't," he adds, more at ease talking about the issue in terms of economics than race. "The gifted and talented criteria is a standardized test that, I believe—and I believe many other people believe—unfairly draws from higher-income children and families, because they are better able to prepare for that test."
2/23/10 11:23 PM

Sullivan says that he opposes the standardization of test scores for children citywide: "It used to be that the [talented and gifted schools] had different entrance criteria in different parts of the city, which would reflect the economics of the various zones." When the PEP voted to standardize scores, "I opposed it, and I was the only one who voted against it."

In Lower Lab's case, the sifting done by tests has resulted in a black population of just 3.1 percent.

If Sullivan was uncomfortable talking specifically about the racial differences between the two schools sharing a building, many black parents were not—even though they preferred to do it anonymously.

"We know they get better stuff and more money in Lower Lab," said one Straus African-American mother who works as a teaching assistant in a nearby school, "but there's nothing we can do about it." Another black parent, whose child was zoned for Straus, sent her to another school "so she wouldn't be humiliated by having [Lower Lab] in her face."

"Isn't that something?" the parent said. "I can't believe they put up with walking in through the back door."

Reconciling the disparity between what the schools receive is especially hard for the mother of one of the few African-American students who recently graduated from Lower Lab. "For my son and his development, I would have liked to have seen more students who looked like him."

When asked if she felt uncomfortable knowing her son received superior resources to most of the black students in the building, her gratitude outweighed her discomfort: "If I was on the outside, I'd say that that's not fair. But getting to be in the school, with my son there, I was happy to be the beneficiary of those benefits."

She candidly revealed that Lower Lab was a very good bargain for their money: "When you have 28 kids in a class, and you can give $500 or $950 a year, and you can have another teacher in the classroom and cut the ratio in half—I was happy to do it."

One thing that did seem to unsettle her, though, is her feeling that it happened through strong-arming. "The PTA was able to hire more personnel [teaching assistants]. That's circumventing Board of Ed rules. And in the Board of Ed, they are aware of this. But because the people on our PTA are powerful people, they are able to go out there and get these funds, and got what they wanted."

Another black parent put it more bluntly: "They've set up a private school within a public building, where they can raise money for their own kids, and their kids only."

It's the 99th school day of the year, and there is much to celebrate in the fifth-grade class of Isador and Ida Straus.

Not only is it the Friday before winter recess, but the class is having a lunchtime party (technically, a "cultural celebration"). The teacher has set up an elaborate chafing-dish buffet. Together with some of the children's parents, she has prepared a smorgasbord of foods to celebrate a smorgasbord of causes, including birthdays, Valentine's Day, the Chinese New Year, African-American History Month, and the final day of school.

Once the food is set and warming up, she returns to the carpet, where the children have been reading aloud When Marian Sang, a book about Marian Anderson.

"You see, children?" says the teacher, after Anderson has defeated Jim Crow to become an opera singer. "Marian experienced hardships, but she got over them. Every group has gone through hardships, and has gotten over them—black people, Latinos, Jews, Asians."

"Even white people?" one child asks his neighbor.

The food is served, and a table full of boys begins digging in. "This food is off the shizzle!" proclaims a bespectacled African-American boy. He and one of his best friends, a South Asian kid with a winning smile, are actually free to talk without being shushed for a change. They're arguing over who is taller, and whether or not hair should count in height. (The boy with the trim Afro thinks it shouldn't; the boy with the voluminous poof thinks it should.)

At the next table, a group of girls tries to trick adults in the room into revealing their ages by asking them what Chinese sign they were born under, then looking it up on the zodiac.

It's a festive mood, even though all the adults in the building cannot wait for 2:20 to arrive and their vacation to begin. With a snow day earlier in the week, the children have been unable to go out on the playground ever since, and they're wound especially tightly.

Despite the teacher's ebullience about the coming vacation—she is literally dancing at the thought—the hard work and money it has taken to put on this party shows how much she loves these children. She paid for the chafing dishes, and the food she has prepared out of her own pocket. Like all New York City teachers, she works with a budget of $150 a year—about 83 cents a day—to provide for all the supplies she'll need.

Unlike her colleagues at the other school in the building, there will be no reimbursement from the PTA. No auction is going to provide her with extra books, or a music teacher, or an assistant. Anything extra—like the food she cooked, after teaching all day and commuting four hours—is on her dime.

Once all of the children have been fed, there is still plenty of food. The teacher invites lots of other people to come in. Staff members and other teachers come on by. It seems like everyone is passing through.

Everyone, that is, except people from the other school in the same building.

The schools' PTAs exist on different orders of magnitude: Their teachers don't seem to interact at all. But what about the kids of the two schools? How do they interact with each other? Though they enter through separate doors, do they play on the playground?

Can the "talented" and "non-talented" get along during recess?

The truth is, it never comes up, because they never, ever play together.

From arriving at different times, to having separate lunch times in the cafeteria, to having different recesses in the yard, the two schools just don't interact. They co-exist, as one parent put it, "like oil and water."

Dr. Pedro Noguera, a professor of education at NYU's Steinhardt school, and the author of The Trouble With Black Boys: And Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education, thinks it's problematic to be segregating kids from such a young age: "When you send young kids to school where the racial lines are so stark, there is the process of saying there is something fundamentally different about us, which is why we can't be together.

"Some towns, because they are homogenous, their inability to create integrated schools is limited, simply by the fact that there is nobody else there," he says. "That's not the case in New York City. What we have here is really Plessy at work: separate, without even being equal—but very much separate."

In other parts of the country, cities and counties and states struggle with the inequalities that arise between schools that benefit or suffer from their geography—public schools in wealthy areas generally provide a better educational experience than public schools in poor areas. School districts have always wrestled with ways to minimize these differences, like how money is spent, how children are routed, and how teachers are allocated.

In New York, these striking differences have nothing to do with geography—not when two public schools can offer such unequal environments within the same building. And yet, the mayor's plan, embodied in the rush to close schools and replace them with even more multiple institutions, only seems to be exacerbating these differences.

Concerned about the lack of access for talented programs in Straus, the Department of Education is addressing the situation. Patrick Sullivan says the DOE will be starting a gifted program within Straus this fall, beginning with a kindergarten class.

Now, the zoned children will have the option of getting into a talented program, instead of competing with children districtwide. A girl like Doreen might have the chance to be in a gifted class, without competing against rich families who can pay for tutors.
Teachers might not have to work as hard to accommodate their slowest and fastest students in the same class.

But the decision is not being universally heralded.

"Why on earth would [Straus] need to have a gifted class, if there's a gifted school already in the building?" asked one mother. "They say they're doing it to make the school more 'attractive,' but are they doing it just to keep [Lower Lab] segregated?"

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chief Seattle's 1854 Oration

This came across my path again recently and I wanted to share with folks. -Angela

Appeared in the Seattle Sunday Star on Oct. 29, 1887, in a column by Dr. Henry A. Smith.


Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change. Whatever Seattle says, the great chief at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty as he can upon the return of the sun or the seasons. The white chief says that Big Chief at Washington sends us greetings of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him for we know he has little need of our friendship in return. His people are many. They are like the grass that covers vast prairies. My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain. The great, and I presume -- good, White Chief sends us word that he wishes to buy our land but is willing to allow us enough to live comfortably. This indeed appears just, even generous, for the Red Man no longer has rights that he need respect, and the offer may be wise, also, as we are no longer in need of an extensive country.

There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory. I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with hastening it, as we too may have been somewhat to blame.

Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint, it denotes that their hearts are black, and that they are often cruel and relentless, and our old men and old women are unable to restrain them. Thus it has ever been. Thus it was when the white man began to push our forefathers ever westward. But let us hope that the hostilities between us may never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Revenge by young men is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers who have sons to lose, know better.

Our good father in Washington--for I presume he is now our father as well as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further north--our great and good father, I say, sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us. His brave warriors will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful ships of war will fill our harbors, so that our ancient enemies far to the northward -- the Haidas and Tsimshians -- will cease to frighten our women, children, and old men. Then in reality he will be our father and we his children. But can that ever be? Your God is not our God! Your God loves your people and hates mine! He folds his strong protecting arms lovingly about the paleface and leads him by the hand as a father leads an infant son. But, He has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His. Our God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us. Your God makes your people wax stronger every day. Soon they will fill all the land. Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide that will never return. The white man's God cannot love our people or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help. How then can we be brothers? How can your God become our God and renew our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness? If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial, for He came to His paleface children. We never saw Him. He gave you laws but had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes once filled this vast continent as stars fill the firmament. No; we are two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies. There is little in common between us.

To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground. You wander far from the graves of your ancestors and seemingly without regret. Your religion was written upon tablets of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget. The Red Man could never comprehend or remember it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors -- the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people.

Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars. They are soon forgotten and never return. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains, sequestered vales and verdant lined lakes and bays, and ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely hearted living, and often return from the happy hunting ground to visit, guide, console, and comfort them.

Day and night cannot dwell together. The Red Man has ever fled the approach of the White Man, as the morning mist flees before the morning sun. However, your proposition seems fair and I think that my people will accept it and will retire to the reservation you offer them. Then we will dwell apart in peace, for the words of the Great White Chief seem to be the words of nature speaking to my people out of dense darkness.

It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will not be many. The Indian's night promises to be dark. Not a single star of hope hovers above his horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man's trail, and wherever he will hear the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare stolidly to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter.

A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of the descendants of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours. But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see.

We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you know. But should we accept it, I here and now make this condition that we will not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children. Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch. Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy hearted maidens, and even the little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits. And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone.

Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Neural Advantage of Speaking 2 Languages

My question here is how trauma— created by schools that coerce bilingual learners into speaking English mostly or English exclusively—plays out in the brain. Are there chemical reactions in the brain that obstruct this kind of processing? Just a hypothesis. I think that this research could test this by comparing age-peers in states that have bilingual education and those that don't. The comparison would involve children attending similar schools, sharing similar family socioeconomic status, and the like. Where do power relations fit into this analysis of bilingualism more generally?


Scientific American Mind- January 21, 2010

The Neural Advantage of Speaking 2 Languages
Bilingual people process certain words faster than others

By Melinda Wenner

The ability to speak a second language isn’t the only thing that distinguishes bilingual people from their monolingual counterparts—their brains work differently, too. Research has shown, for instance, that children who know two languages more easily solve problems that involve misleading cues. A new study published in Psychological Science reveals that knowledge of a second language—even one learned in adolescence—affects how people read in their native tongue. The findings suggest that after learning a second language, people never look at words the same way again.

Eva Van Assche, a bilingual psychologist at the Univer­sity of Ghent in Belgium, and her colleagues recruited 45 native Dutch-speaking students from their university who had learned English at age 14 or 15. The researchers asked the participants to read a collection of Dutch sentences, some of which included cognates—words that look similar and have equivalent meanings in both lan­guages (such as “sport,” which means the same thing in both Dutch and English). They also read other sen­tences containing only noncognate words in Dutch.

Van Assche and her colleagues recorded the participants’ eye move­ments as they read. They found that the subjects spent, on average, eight fewer milliseconds gazing at cognate words than control words, which suggests that their brains processed the dual-language words more quickly than words found only in their native language.

“The most important implication of the study is that even when a per­son is reading in his or her native language, there is an influence of knowledge of the nondominant second language,” Van Assche notes. “Becoming a bilingual changes one of people’s most automatic skills.” She plans to investigate next whether people who are bilingual also process auditory language information differently. “Many questions remain,” she says.

Note: This story was originally printed with the title "Bilingual Brains"

Austin Plane Crash Pilot's Apparent Suicide Note

We're posting this article from NPR in light of a recent discussion among policy doctoral students in an Immigration, Education, and Globalization class. We felt it was important for the depth of Stack's letter to be critically examined. All respectful comments are welcome.


By Frank James | NPR
February 18, 2010

Media outlets are posting and reporting on a letter found at a website registered to a Joseph Stack.

That is the same name, Joseph Andrew Stack, as the person who, according to federal officials, owned the Piper plane that crashed into an office building in Austin, Texas and a house that was reportedly set on fire.

The rambling letter, a diatribe against the government and the Internal Revenue Service, appears to be a suicide note.

Because the office building that was struck contained many IRS offices and nearly 200 agency employees, the letter, assuming it is what it appears to be, could help explain why the building was targeted.

The letter is below.

If you're reading this, you're no doubt asking yourself, "Why did this have to happen?" The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time. The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn't enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken. Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it. I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless... especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head. Exactly what is therapeutic about that I'm not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was "no taxation without representation". I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood. These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a "crackpot", traitor and worse.

While very few working people would say they haven't had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it's time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country's leaders don't see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political "representatives" (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the "terrible health care problem". It's clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don't get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.

And justice? You've got to be kidding!

How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system? Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand. Yet, it mercilessly "holds accountable" its victims, claiming that they're responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand. The law "requires" a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that's not "duress" than what is. If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.

How did I get here?

My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early '80s. Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English. Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having 'tax code' readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful "exemptions" that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy. We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the "best", high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the "big boys" were doing (except that we weren't steeling from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God). We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living. However, this is where I learned that there are two "interpretations" for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us... Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0. It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie. It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their "freedom"... and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.

Before even having to make a shaky recovery from the sting of the first lesson on what justice really means in this country (around 1984 after making my way through engineering school and still another five years of "paying my dues"), I felt I finally had to take a chance of launching my dream of becoming an independent engineer.

On the subjects of engineers and dreams of independence, I should digress somewhat to say that I'm sure that I inherited the fascination for creative problem solving from my father. I realized this at a very young age.

The significance of independence, however, came much later during my early years of college; at the age of 18 or 19 when I was living on my own as student in an apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My neighbor was an elderly retired woman (80+ seemed ancient to me at that age) who was the widowed wife of a retired steel worker. Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement. Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. All she had was social security to live on.

In retrospect, the situation was laughable because here I was living on peanut butter and bread (or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge) for months at a time. When I got to know this poor figure and heard her story I felt worse for her plight than for my own (I, after all, I thought I had everything to in front of me). I was genuinely appalled at one point, as we exchanged stories and commiserated with each other over our situations, when she in her grandmotherly fashion tried to convince me that I would be "healthier" eating cat food (like her) rather than trying to get all my substance from peanut butter and bread. I couldn't quite go there, but the impression was made. I decided that I didn't trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.

Return to the early '80s, and here I was off to a terrifying start as a 'wet-behind-the-ears' contract software engineer... and two years later, thanks to the fine backroom, midnight effort by the sleazy executives of Arthur Andersen (the very same folks who later brought us Enron and other such calamities) and an equally sleazy New York Senator (Patrick Moynihan), we saw the passage of 1986 tax reform act with its section 1706.

For you who are unfamiliar, here is the core text of the IRS Section 1706, defining the treatment of workers (such as contract engineers) for tax purposes. Visit this link for a conference committee report ( regarding the intended interpretation of Section 1706 and the relevant parts of Section 530, as amended. For information on how these laws affect technical services workers and their clients, read our discussion here (


(a) IN GENERAL - Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:

(d) EXCEPTION. - This section shall not apply in the case of an individual who pursuant to an arrangement between the taxpayer and another person, provides services for such other person as an engineer, designer, drafter, computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work.

(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. - The amendment made by this section shall apply to remuneration paid and services rendered after December 31, 1986.


?? "another person" is the client in the traditional job-shop relationship.

?? "taxpayer" is the recruiter, broker, agency, or job shop.

?? "individual", "employee", or "worker" is you.

Admittedly, you need to read the treatment to understand what it is saying but it's not very complicated. The bottom line is that they may as well have put my name right in the text of section (d). Moreover, they could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave. Twenty years later, I still can't believe my eyes.

During 1987, I spent close to $5000 of my 'pocket change', and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time. I spent countless hours on the L.A. freeways driving to meetings and any and all of the disorganized professional groups who were attempting to mount a campaign against this atrocity. This, only to discover that our efforts were being easily derailed by a few moles from the brokers who were just beginning to enjoy the windfall from the new declaration of their "freedom". Oh, and don't forget, for all of the time I was spending on this, I was loosing income that I couldn't bill clients.

After months of struggling it had clearly gotten to be a futile exercise. The best we could get for all of our trouble is a pronouncement from an IRS mouthpiece that they weren't going to enforce that provision (read harass engineers and scientists). This immediately proved to be a lie, and the mere existence of the regulation began to have its impact on my bottom line; this, of course, was the intended effect.

Again, rewind my retirement plans back to 0 and shift them into idle. If I had any sense, I clearly should have left abandoned engineering and never looked back.

Instead I got busy working 100-hour workweeks. Then came the L.A. depression of the early 1990s. Our leaders decided that they didn't need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that. The result was economic devastation in the region that rivaled the widely publicized Texas S&L fiasco. However, because the government caused it, no one gave a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to "shore up" their windfall. Again, I lost my retirement.

Years later, after weathering a divorce and the constant struggle trying to build some momentum with my business, I find myself once again beginning to finally pick up some speed. Then came the .COM bust and the 911 nightmare. Our leaders decided that all aircraft were grounded for what seemed like an eternity; and long after that, 'special' facilities like San Francisco were on security alert for months. This made access to my customers prohibitively expensive. Ironically, after what they had done the Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars ... as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY! After these events, there went my business but not quite yet all of my retirement and savings.

By this time, I'm thinking that it might be good for a change. Bye to California, I'll try Austin for a while. So I moved, only to find out that this is a place with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done. I've never experienced such a hard time finding work. The rates are 1/3 of what I was earning before the crash, because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies in the area who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages... and this happens because the justice department is all on the take and doesn't give a fuck about serving anyone or anything but themselves and their rich buddies.

To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA. This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income. I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn't have any income there was no need. The sleazy government decided that they disagreed. But they didn't notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out. Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.

So now we come to the present. After my experience with the CPA world, following the business crash I swore that I'd never enter another accountant's office again. But here I am with a new marriage and a boatload of undocumented income, not to mention an expensive new business asset, a piano, which I had no idea how to handle. After considerable thought I decided that it would be irresponsible NOT to get professional help; a very big mistake.

When we received the forms back I was very optimistic that they were in order. I had taken all of the years information to Bill Ross, and he came back with results very similar to what I was expecting. Except that he had neglected to include the contents of Sheryl's unreported income; $12,700 worth of it. To make matters worse, Ross knew all along this was missing and I didn't have a clue until he pointed it out in the middle of the audit. By that time it had become brutally evident that he was representing himself and not me.

This left me stuck in the middle of this disaster trying to defend transactions that have no relationship to anything tax-related (at least the tax-related transactions were poorly documented). Things I never knew anything about and things my wife had no clue would ever matter to anyone. The end result is... well, just look around.

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the "great" depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn't it ironic how far we've come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn't have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it's "business-as-usual". Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes... isn't that a clever, tidy solution.

As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone. The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government. Nothing changes unless there is a body count (unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough). In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws.

I know I'm hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn't limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at "big brother" while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won't continue; I have just had enough.

I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn't so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)


Millions of Unemployed Face Years without jobs

Read this in tandem with the Stiglitz interview. It is clear that society is undergoing a fundamental restructuring. It has been. But with the economic crisis, the hit that the middle class is taking illuminates the depths of this shift. Now, more than ever, we need to invest in education, in human capital, so that we can at least position ourselves as a country for opportunity that exists within.

It cannot be underestimated how there is a dramatic shift taking place, palpably, before our very eyes.


Key quotes within:

"Roughly 2.7 million jobless people will lose their unemployment check before the end of April unless Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to extend the payments, according to the Labor Department."

"...6.3 million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer, the largest number since the government began keeping track in 1948. That is more than double the toll in the next-worst period, in the early 1980s."

"In 1983, after a deep recession, women in that range [ages 45 to 64] made up only 7 percent of those who had been out of work for six months or longer, according to the Labor Department. Last year, they made up 14 percent.

"Labor experts say the economy needs 100,000 new jobs a month just to absorb entrants to the labor force. With more than 15 million people officially jobless, even a vigorous recovery is likely to leave an enormous number out of work for years.

Some labor experts note that severe economic downturns are generally followed by powerful expansions, suggesting that aggressive hiring will soon resume. But doubts remain about whether such hiring can last long enough to absorb anywhere close to the millions of unemployed."

"Large companies are increasingly owned by institutional investors who crave swift profits, a feat often achieved by cutting payroll. The declining influence of unions has made it easier for employers to shift work to part-time and temporary employees. Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 — the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks."

“American business is about maximizing shareholder value,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics. “You basically don’t want workers. You hire less, and you try to find capital equipment to replace them.”

"During periods of American economic expansion in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the number of private-sector jobs increased about 3.5 percent a year, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, a research firm. During expansions in the 1980s and ’90s, jobs grew just 2.4 percent annually. And during the last decade, job growth fell to 0.9 percent annually.

“The pace of job growth has been getting weaker in each expansion,” Mr. Achuthan said. “There is no indication that this pattern is about to change.”

"Some poverty experts say the broader social safety net is not up to cushioning the impact of the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Social services are less extensive than during the last period of double-digit unemployment, in the early 1980s.

On average, only two-thirds of unemployed people received state-provided unemployment checks last year, according to the Labor Department. The rest either exhausted their benefits, fell short of requirements or did not apply.

“You have very large sets of people who have no social protections,” said Randy Albelda, an economist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. 'They are landing in this netherworld.'"

"Yet as jobs have become harder to get, so has welfare: as of 2006, 44 states cut off anyone with a household income totaling 75 percent of the poverty level — then limited to $1,383 a month for a family of three — according to an analysis by Ms. Albelda."

Univision Launches National Campaign to Promote Hispanic Academic Achievement and College Readiness, Access and Completion

Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010

Univision Launches National Campaign to Promote Hispanic Academic Achievement and College Readiness, Access and Completion

‘Es El Momento’ (The Moment is Now) Campaign to Leverage all of Univision’s Media PlatformsMulti-Million Dollar Initiative to Partner with Community-Based Organizations to Reach Parents, Students and the Broader Community to Foster a Col
WASHINGTON — Univision Communications today announced the launch of Es El Momento (The Moment is Now), a comprehensive, multi-platform, multi-million dollar three-year national education initiative. Es El Momento will be aimed at improving academic achievement among K-12 Hispanic students with a specific focus on increasing rates of high school graduation, college readiness, college completion and engaging Hispanic parents and the broader community in these efforts.

The Spanish-language campaign, which goes live today across all Univision platforms – television, radio, online and mobile will be conducted in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, community, education and civil rights groups from around the country. Award-winning Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos will be the campaign’s primary spokesperson. In addition, an Advisory Board with experts in education has been established to assist Univision in the on-going development of the multi-year campaign.

Joe Uva, president and CEO of Univision said, “Univision has always stood for championing the needs and interests of the Hispanic community. Today, no issue is more important than education and improving academic achievement for our young people. That is why we are using all of the resources across our entire portfolio to empower Hispanic parents and children by providing them with relevant information and connecting them with the resources they need to succeed.”

According to research, the high school graduation rate for Hispanic students is 55 percent compared to 69 percent for their non-Hispanic peers. Hispanic students lag behind their non-Hispanic peers on a number of key metrics, including standardized test scores, high school graduation rates, college matriculation rates, and college graduation rates. Given that one out of five K-12 students is Hispanic, closing this achievement gap is essential to help these students succeed in school and be prepared for today’s workforce, as well as to bolster the overall strength of the U.S. education system and the future of the nation’s economy.

The campaign focuses on fostering a strong culture of academic achievement and college aspiration among the U.S. Hispanic community. Outreach targets not only Hispanic students but also parents and caretakers and the broader community. The initiative includes national Public Service Announcements (PSAs) on Univision media platforms, national and local news coverage, and special programming on television and radio, along with partnerships at the local level for grassroots and community efforts. Es El Momento will also include a comprehensive online and mobile website at, featuring a weekly Q&A with popular motivational radio personality Dr. Isabel and users. Interactive offerings including a school locator widget and weekly mobile text alerts will provide relevant educational tips. Hispanics will soon be able to find educational tools and resources in their area through localized feeds on the website.

Today, Univision Communications touches millions of Hispanics across its television, radio and interactive platforms. Univision Communications includes one of the top five networks in the country regardless of language, which is also the #1 Spanish-language network in the country; the #2 Spanish-language broadcast network in key day parts, the #1 Spanish-language cable network in the country; the leading Spanish-language radio group and the #1 Spanish-language website among U.S. Hispanics.

Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “A great education is not an honor or privilege—it’s a fundamental civil right. This partnership with Univision will not only inspire Hispanic students and their parents and community to aspire to a college education, it will give them access to the information and tools they need to make their dream a reality. Education is the best way to expand opportunity for all. We can’t think of a better partner to work with on Es El Momento than Univision, which shares this belief in the power of education.”

United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan stated, “President Obama and I believe that reducing dropout rates and boosting student achievement among Hispanic students is absolutely essential to the future of our economy and the future of our nation. As our nation—from the federal level to schools and districts across the country—strives to realize the dream of equal educational opportunity, Univision’s efforts will help Latino parents and the community ensure that dream by providing the tools and information to cultivate and support a college-going culture. I applaud Univision for taking on this critical conversation with parents and students – indeed, The Moment is Now- ¡Es El Momento!”

“As the first person in my family to attend college, I know first-hand the importance of a good education. And as Secretary of Labor, I recognize that it is critical to accessing jobs that are safe, green, and that have good wages and benefits. In short, education—especially higher education—is key to making good jobs for everyone a reality,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L Solis. “For the nation’s Latinos, who have an unemployment rate of 12.6%,‘The Moment is Now’ -¡Es El Momento!” We must encourage our young people to pursue higher education, which will make them more competitive for the good jobs we are working to make a standard of our 21st century economy.”

Commenting on the Es El Momento campaign, Univision Networks President Cesar Conde said, “The family is the center of Hispanic life. And study-after-study shows that parental involvement and support is absolutely essential for academic achievement. So it is only natural that in launching this multi-faceted campaign we are focused on reaching parents and the entire community in order to encourage them to help guide our young people toward a college degree.”

Outakes from the multi-media campaign, produced by the Miami-based firm Republica, debuted at a news conference at the National Press Club. For more details on the campaign including videos, advertising and advisory board biographies please visit the Univision FTP site ( Enter username: eselmomento and password: educate.

Univision Communications Inc. is the premier Spanish-language media company in the United States. Its operations include Univision Network, the most-watched Spanish-language broadcast television network in the U.S. reaching 95% of U.S. Hispanic Households; TeleFutura Network, a general-interest Spanish-language broadcast television network, which was launched in 2002 and now reaches 85% of U.S. Hispanic Households; Galavisión, the country’s leading Spanish-language cable network; Univision Studios, which produces and co-produces telenovelas, reality shows, dramatic series and other programming formats for all of the Company’s platforms; Univision Television Group, which owns and operates 64 television stations in major U.S. Hispanic markets and Puerto Rico; Univision Radio, the leading Spanish-language radio group which owns and/or operates 68 radio stations in 16 of the top 25 U.S. Hispanic markets and 5 stations in Puerto Rico; and Univision Interactive Media, which includes, the premier Spanish-language Internet destination in the U.S., and Univision Móvil, the industry’s most comprehensive Spanish-language suite of mobile offerings. Univision Communications also has a 50% interest in TuTv, a joint venture formed to broadcast Televisa’s pay television channels in the U.S. Univision Communications has television network operations in Miami and television and radio stations and sales offices in major cities throughout the United States.

For more information, please visit

Study Explores How Best to Identify ELLs With Disabilities

Study Explores How Best to Identify ELLs With Disabilities
By Mary Ann Zehr
on February 17, 2010 10:14 AM |

School district officials think teachers tend to be too quick to refer English-language learners to special education, while teachers think school district officials tend to wait too long to make a referral, according to a federal study of special education referral practices in three New York suburban school districts.

Read on here.

2 New Reports on Charter Schools

Who Benefits from KIPP?*
by Joshua D. Angrist, Susan M. Dynarski, Thomas J. Kane, Parag A. Pathak, Christopher R. Walters

Charter schools affiliated with the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) are emblematic of the No Excuses approach to public education. These schools feature a long school day, an extended school year, selective teacher hiring, strict behavior norms and a focus on traditional reading and math skills. We use applicant lotteries to evaluate the impact of KIPP Academy Lynn, a KIPP charter school that is mostly Hispanic and has a high concentration of limited English proficiency (LEP) and special-need students, groups that charter critics have argued are typically under-served. The results show overall gains of 0.35 standard deviations in math and 0.12 standard deviations in reading for each year spent at KIPP Lynn. LEP students, special education students, and those with low baseline scores benefit more from time spent at KIPP than do other students, with reading gains coming almost entirely from the LEP group.

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EdResearch UC Santa Barbara

Choice without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards
by E. Frankenberg, G. Siegel-Hawley, and J. Wang

This nationwide report is based on an analysis of Federal government data and an examination of charter schools in 40 states and the District of Columbia, along with several dozen metropolitan areas with large enrollments of charters. The report found that charter schools continue to stratify students by race, class, and possibly language, and are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the country.

The study's key findings suggest that charter schools, particularly those in the western United States are havens for white re-segregation from public schools; requirements for providing essential equity data to the federal government go unmet across the nation; and magnet schools are overlooked, in spite of showing greater levels of integration and academic achievement than charters.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz on Obama’s Stimulus Plan, Debt, Climate Change, & “Freefall: America, Free Markets, & the Sinking of the World Economy

This interview took place on Democracy Now. It analyzes the present economic crisis and he critiques “ersatz capitalism.” This form of capitalism socializes losses but privatizes gains.


Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz on Obama’s Stimulus Plan, Debt, Climate Change, and “Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy”

As President Obama defends the success of his one-year-old $787 billion stimulus package, we speak to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who says the stimulus was both not big enough and too focused on tax cuts. Stiglitz is the author of the new book Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy, which analyzes the causes of the Great Recession of 2008 and calls for overcoming what he calls an “ersatz capitalism” that socializes losses but privatizes gains.

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist and professor at Columbia University. His latest book is Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama defended the success of his one-year-old $787 billion stimulus package Wednesday. Speaking on the first anniversary of the day he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, Obama said it helped prevent the country from sliding into a depression.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: One year later, it is largely thanks to the Recovery Act that a second depression is no longer a possibility. It’s one of the main reasons the economy has gone from shrinking by six percent to growing at about six percent. And this morning we learned that manufacturing production posted a strong gain. So far, the Recovery Act is responsible for the jobs of about two million Americans who would otherwise be unemployed.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama’s comments come in the midst of a bitter debate between Democrats and Republicans over the success of the stimulus bill. The White House is now aggressively trying convince Americans of the virtues of the stimulus package.

This week Vice President Joseph Biden and other administration officials are traveling across the country, talking up the Recovery Act and trying to clear up public confusion between the bailout and the stimulus.

On Wednesday, Obama also acknowledged the limited success of his stimulus package in tackling rising unemployment.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You can argue, rightly, that we haven’t made as much progress as we need to make when it comes to spurring job creation. That’s part of the reason why the Recovery Act is on track to save or create another 1.5 million jobs in 2010. That’s part of the reason why I expect Congress to pass additional measures as quickly as possible that will help our small business owners create new jobs, give them more of an incentive to hire.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more on the success of the stimulus, what to expect from the Obama administration and Congress, and the state of the American and global economy, we’re joined now from Chicago by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. His latest book analyzes the causes of the Great Recession of 2008 and offers suggestions for how this country can learn from what he describes as a “near-death experience” instead of continuing what he calls an “ersatz capitalism” that socializes losses but privatizes gains. His book is calledFreefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy.
Well, Joe Stiglitz, welcome to Democracy Now! Why don’t you start off by assessing this first anniversary of the stimulus?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, it has made a difference. I think President Obama is absolutely right that, were it not for the stimulus bill, unemployment would be higher, much higher, than it is today.

And we should be clear that the unemployment rate that we have today is unacceptable. Unemployment is almost ten percent. But more telling, more than one out of six Americans who would like a full-time job cannot get one now.

The problem with the stimulus was not that it didn’t work, but it wasn’t big enough, and it wasn’t as well designed as I would have—I would have liked. Two problems. What was needed was a stimulus of at least 50 percent larger. Even the President’s own economic adviser talked about the need for a $1.2 trillion bill. But unfortunately, President Obama wasn’t given that choice. Even before it was presented to him, it was downscaled to a choice between $600 and $800 billion, and he pushed for the larger number.

The second problem was that about a third of it is in tax cuts. And with Americans burdened with debt, with the uncertainties in the job market, much of that tax cut went into savings, not into spending. And the nature of a stimulus is you have to spend it. So while the money may have given them more security, may have provided individual benefits, it did not provide the stimulus that, for instance, directing money to help states maintain their universities, schools, teachers, would have done.
You know, the unusual situation we have today is there are a lot of youth unemployment, but the schools, the universities are being cut back so that they can’t use this time to build up their skills. Other countries have really tried to do it much better, tried to make sure that at least if you can’t get a job, you can get skills that increase your productivity.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Joe Stiglitz, isn’t there a question in terms of how the administration even tried to sell this bill to the American public that’s created the enormous confusion and the pessimism now among the people, in terms of how many jobs were actually created? Because they always talked about saving or creating new jobs, when the reality is that it appears that the bulk of the stimulus basically went to saving jobs, not creating any, obviously, net gains in US employment.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Yeah, I agree with you. There were actually two problems in, you might say, marketing. The first is that the administration, at the same time, continued the massive bailout of the banks. And that was a terribly designed measure, where money was poured into the banks, that was defended on the grounds that it would restart credit and the flow of credit. It didn’t work. There were no restraints. And the fact that as we were pouring money into the banks, they were pouring money out in bonuses, really got the ire of the American people. So that was the first problem.

The second problem one is, as you said, that they talked about this ambiguity of saving or creating. But that was a difficult one to try to explain. The economists call this the “counterfactual”—what it would have been, but for the stimulus. And that’s a hard concept to try to explain to people: if we didn’t have the stimulus, the unemployment rate would have been even higher.
Interesting thing was, part of the problem, the administration was overly optimistic about where the economy was going, which is part of the reason that they didn’t have the size of the stimulus that they needed. They thought the unemployment rate was going to peak at about ten percent and that they were going to bring it down to eight percent, as opposed to other people, like Mark Zandi, who were talking about unemployment peaking around 12 percent, and they’d be bringing it down to ten percent. I was among those who were more pessimistic about where the direction of the economy was going, and unfortunately, the bears, people like me who didn’t—who thought that there were real problems, proved to be correct.
AMY GOODMAN: In that case, Joe Stiglitz, has the White House asked you to join them?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: No, no. They have from time to time talked about, you know, advice on particular issues. We’ve kept in contact, but they have—you know, any administration has their team that they’re going to have to rely on.

AMY GOODMAN: But quite seriously, and then you look at President Obama’s team, and what is your assessment of them? So they don’t choose you, who’s gotten it right, but they do, for example, the bigger team, the ones in charge, Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner. What’s your assessment of them?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, you know, they’re—they are very devoted. I do think that they have the interest of the country at heart.
There is a problem, and a problem that I talked about in my book Freefall. Actually, there’s more than one problem. One of them is that they were so associated with the failures of the past that even were they to give the correct advice, there would be a suspicion. There would be a suspicion, partly, as I say, because they’ve been very closely connected with some of the measures that were clearly done to benefit the financial sector, the banks.

Two examples. They were—one of them was very closely associated with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that allowed the “too big to fail” banks to get even bigger. For commercial banks, that are supposed to do boring banking, and the banks, the investment banks, that are supposed to manage money for high-income people, they allowed those to get together, and the culture of risk-taking took over the whole industry. They were responsible for the law that said we will not allow the regulators to regulate derivatives, these—what Warren Buffett called “financial weapons of mass destruction.” One bailout, that of AIG, costing taxpayers $180 billion. So, you know, that was the first problem.

The second one is that it’s not always clear that people change their mindset so quickly. If you believe that markets are always self-correcting, that they always take care of themselves, that you don’t need regulation—even when the evidence comes in, that that’s not true—the question is, do you think it’s a minor adjustment that’s required, or do you think there’s a more major overhaul that’s required? Is there a problem with the plumbing—we just need to unclog the plumbing, and everything will flow quickly? Or is the real problem with the design of the system, the balance between the market and the state? And the risk is that they will be too aligned with the mistaken economic philosophy that has dominated the last three decades.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, professor at Columbia University, has just written a new book. It’s called Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy. We’ll be back with him in a minute.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking with Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, professor at Columbia University. His latest book is called Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy. Juan?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Joe Stiglitz, one of the things that intrigued me about your book was the effort that you did to look at the historical development that preceded this Great Recession of 2007, 2008. You actually trace the origins of some of the aspects of the crisis back about a decade to what was happening in the third world, especially in Asia, all of the countries that experienced crises in 1997, 1998—Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia. And it reminded me very much that people forget that the Great Depression of the 1930s was actually preceded by an enormous crisis in the third world in the 1920s that, if people had been looking, would have told them what was about to happen here in the United States. Now, you had a front-row seat in that, because you were involved with the World Bank back then. Could you talk about what happened in the late ’90s and its relationship to the current crisis?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: There are actually two connections. One of them is that we were seeing played out around the world the consequences of the kinds of deregulation, financial market deregulation, that had begun in the United States and around the world in the era of Reagan and Thatcher. In the quarter-century before that, the world had experienced the first extended period in which there was no financial crisis since the beginning of capitalism. Financial crises had happened over and over and over again, and after the Great Depression, we passed a set of regulations in the United States, and similar ones in other countries, that at last had provided an element of financial stability. We had stopped the banks from engaging in the excesses that had repeatedly marked their behavior.

We forgot that, those lessons. We deregulated. Unfortunately, the World Bank and the IMF were at the forefront of that in the days and the years before I arrived, and the result of that was that there were literally more than a hundred financial crises around the world in the period after the deregulation movement began. And the consequences were really serious. I saw, for instance, Indonesia, in the central island of Java, the unemployment rate got up to 40 percent. You know, I can remember people saying, you know, “We’re so much smarter than we were back in the Great Depression, we know how to prevent another recession of that depth.” But we were as smart then as we are now, and the right policies were not put into place, and Indonesia went into this really serious depression.

The second link is a forward-looking link. Because of the way the US Treasury and the IMF managed those crises around the world, the policies they pushed on these countries, the economic downturns turned into recessions, recessions turned into depressions. I talked to the prime minister of one of these countries, and he said, quite frankly, “We were in the class of ’97. We saw what happens if you don’t have enough reserves.” And then he went on to say, “We’ll never let this happen again.” And he and countries all over the developing world started to save. They started to build up reserves, hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
Now, this led to greater security for them, but it has contributed to a global problem. If people aren’t spending, there’s a lack of global aggregate demand, a lack of spending that will sustain the global economy. In a world of globalization, it is global aggregate demand that matters a great deal.

So, what we are now seeing, and we’re likely to see in the future, is that this problem, already serious, is going to get worse, because the countries that did better in this crisis were the countries that had built up the most reserves. China has built up reserves of over $2.3 trillion. Yeah, it’s a huge amount of money. China is the one country that never went into a recession. Growth did slow down from about 12 percent down to seven, eight percent, maybe for some quarters even lower than that, but it’s back to nine percent. It could do that because it had these huge reserves. So the lesson that countries are learning is save, don’t spend. And, of course, if the countries follow that lesson, then the global recovery will be very anemic.

AMY GOODMAN: Coming forward to today, Joe Stiglitz, I wanted to turn to President Obama in his State of the Union address, who called for a freeze on government spending, except, well, notably, in relation to spending on war. The record $3.8 trillion budget Obama unveiled the following week boosts money for war while cutting domestic spending. This is what he said.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama in his State of the Union address. Your assessment of this? You’re also author, with Linda Bilmes, of The Three Trillion Dollar War. What about the cost of war and the spending freeze on everything but war?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, first, wars are very expensive, and that was the point that Linda and I made in our book, that much of the cost of the war is beneath the ground, dishonest accounting, costs that we’re going to have to pay, for instance, for the disabled. The fraction of those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that are coming back disabled is enormous. It’s now almost one out of two. And many of these disabilities are very, very serious. And we are going to be paying these costs for a half-century going forward. So we should remember that these costs are larger than the costs that they’re admitting to.
But going back to the basic economics of what we’re talking about here, two points I’d make. The first is a point that Linda and I made in our book, and that is, spending on the war is spending that does not stimulate the economy. It provides the least bang for the buck in terms of the economy of almost any other kind of spending. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve used large numbers of foreign contractors. Money that’s spent over there doesn’t have a second round of effects back at home. What we count on when we spend money in other areas is that we spend the money, the people who receive the money spend the money, that creates more jobs, and then they spend the money. And that round—that circulation of the money around keeps building up. But if we spend the money over on war costs, we don’t get those kinds of indirect benefits.
Secondly, unlike other kinds of spending—on investments, on education, infrastructure, technology—we don’t get extra tax revenues from the extra growth. When we spend money on these other areas, the economy grows. When the economy grows, tax revenues increase. It’s reflecting the same kind of shortsighted behavior perceptions that got the country into trouble in the first place. It’s not the national debt today that matters; it’s the national debt five, ten, fifteen, twenty years from now. If we spend the money well and that creates a stronger economy, that will create more tax revenue. And just like a firm borrows to make profits in the future, it makes perfect sense for us to borrow to create jobs today and to get more tax revenues in the future, and our national debt will actually be lower if we spend more money now.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Joe Stiglitz—
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: The final point, the President—
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’m sorry. Go ahead.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: You know, I just want to emphasize the point, the jobs problem is much more serious than the President seems to realize. We’re not going to be out of this by 2011, 2012. Even the administration and the CBO have said unemployment—in their, I think, optimistic projections—is not going to get back to normal at least until the middle of the decade. So the timing here is also off.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Joe Stiglitz, you’ve also urged a second stimulus package, especially focusing on the problems that state governments are going through, because, obviously, as real estate has collapsed, the value of real estate throughout the country has collapsed, that means that property taxes, which are a huge portion of local state revenues, have also collapsed. And this is going to be a problem for years to come, in terms of states being able to balance their budgets.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: That’s exactly right. And the important point is that the states have what are called “balanced budget framework.” That means that the revenues are going down, and they’re going down by over $200 billion a year. As the revenues go down, they either have to cut back spending or raise taxes. This is a negative stimulus to the economy. So the stimulus at the federal level is being offset by the negative stimulus at the state level.

Same problem happened in the Great Depression. One of the reasons the Great Depression lasted as long as it did was that as the New Deal kicked in, the states were contracting. And the result of it was that we didn’t really recover for years from the Great Depression.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Joe Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist. His new book is called Freefall. You know, in our headlines, we just read that Yvo de Boer, the head of the climate change talks in Copenhagen, is quitting, is resigning. He won’t be there for the Mexico City talks. You’ve been very involved with the issue of climate change. Talk about what needs to be done and what you feel isn’t being done by this country.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, let me first try to give a link between climate change and the economic recovery. What is so disturbing about our current global economic situation is that we have this enormous excess capacity, and we have these unmet needs, unmet needs that we have to retrofit the global economy to meet the challenges of global warming. We have a couple billion people living in dire poverty around the world. We need to have investment to increase their standards of living. So we have this incongruity of excess supply and unmet needs. And our economy and our political leaders can’t seem to bring the two together.

In Copenhagen, if we had succeeded in raising the price of carbon—the cost of carbon emissions that pollute the atmosphere are going to impose enormous costs all over the world. If we had succeeded in doing that, that would have provided a market signal. It would have told firms, you have to invest to reduce your carbon emissions. There would have been this retrofitting of the global economy to meet the needs of global warming. That would have stimulated an enormous level of investment and stimulated a lot of spending. And that would have been the critical thing that could have gotten us out of the current Great Recession.

But as it is, what we did is left even greater uncertainty. Where are we going? The result of that is that—greater hesitancy even to make the kinds of investments that we were in the process of making. So, in fact, the failure in Copenhagen has its economic consequences right now.

JUAN GONZALEZ: In your book also, in terms of dealing with or analyzing the current crisis, you try to make the point that, really, this crisis was not the result of decisions of any few individuals, but you say, precisely, “This book has a different aim. Its view is that essentially all the critical policies, such as those related to deregulation, were the consequence of political and economic ‘forces’—interests, ideas, and ideologies—that go beyond any particular individual.” If these forces resulted in the current crisis, what kind of policies are you proposing that would get us out of the crisis?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, the point is that, you know, a lot of attention has been focused on, say, Alan Greenspan or Bernanke for the failures of regulation that led to the crisis. And what I was trying to do here is to say, if Greenspan hadn’t been there, there would have been somebody else. Reagan would have appointed another person who believes that regulation isn’t needed. And if you have regulators who don’t believe in regulation, you’re not going to get effective enforcement of regulation.

Right now we’re seeing some of that, the same mixture of ideology, interests, that are stopping us from restructuring the regulatory framework. So you see the outpouring of money, trying to persuade Congress not to adopt the regulations that are obviously needed. We should have learned from this experience, but so far, very little regulatory reform has been done. They use these arguments like, “Oh, we can’t go overboard. We’ll stifle innovation.” The fact is, as Paul Volcker has pointed out, there is—this innovation was not innovation that was positive. Only the bankers did well; not even their shareholders and bondholders did well. But the economy did disastrously. The taxpayers have lost. The workers have lost. Homeowners have lost. So this innovation has not been beneficial. So this conjunction of ideology, wrongly framed ideas, and interests are stopping now the regulatory reforms that are needed.

And finally, you asked the question, well, what’s behind all this? It’s obviously campaign contributions. Five lobbyists for every congressman. And unfortunately, in the Citizens United case before the Supreme Court, things have gotten worse. The Supreme Court basically allowed them to unleash the amount of spending to try—you know, we always had the best government that money could buy, and now the price has just gone up. And the likelihood of our political process being distorted has gotten worse.

AMY GOODMAN: The latest news in the New York Times about the crisis in Europe, and particularly in Greece, reporting that Wall Street tactics that were akin to what caused the subprime mortgage disaster are being used to enable governments to hide their mounting debts. And what they were talking about was the deal created by Goldman Sachs that helped Greece obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels. What did Goldman do? And what do you think of this?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, our banks were very creative in their accounting. They first used this creative accounting to avoid paying taxes, but then they discovered that you could use the same kind of creative—more accurately called “deceptive”—accounting to deceive investors, move things off balance sheet, hide what was going on, and do very well by yourself, even if, in the long run, other people are going to pick up the tab. And in this, in the case of the banks, it was the American taxpayers who’ve picked up a lot of the tab, but also, of course, the shareholders and the bondholders.
They then started marketing this kind of deception all over the world. And there are ways that you can move things off balance sheet so that the costs that you’re going to have to pay, years into the future, are not apparent. You see revenues coming in. The particular issue at the time was Greece was trying to get into the EU. It had to satisfy certain conditions about the deficits and the debt. And these were very clever ways of making it appear as if they were actually meeting the criteria, when in fact, of course, the problems persisted.

What is so upsetting to many people in Greece and all over Europe—I just came back from two weeks in Europe—is that the banks, after causing the crisis, after the governments having bailed out the banks, having had to spend a huge amount of money to stop a depression or a deep, deep recession caused by the banks, these same banks are now attacking the countries, criticizing them for the deficit that the banks’ irresponsibility helped create, and are trying to manage a speculative attack against these countries, the result of which is they are demanding that salaries be cut, wages be cut, meanwhile saying, “We need to keep our big bonuses. Don’t attack our bonuses. That’s necessary for the working of a market economy.”
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Joseph Stiglitz, finally, the issue of the derivatives market, this ticking time bomb, unregulated, no transparency. Most people don’t even know, even on Wall Street, which particular deals have been made and what they entail. Your assessment of how the Obama administration is moving on the front of bringing some regulation into the derivatives market?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: The derivatives market, let me just emphasize, was very critical in the deceptive accounting in Greece, important in the deceptive accounting that led to the freezing of the credit markets, because no one knew what their financial position was. And you could see what happened in AIG, where one moment it said it had a $10 billion problem, the next moment the taxpayer had to put in $89 billion, wound up $180 billion, money that some of which went to Goldman Sachs, which you mentioned before. We’ll never get that money back. So, those are the dangers that these derivatives can expose. We should have known that, because back in ’98, one hedge fund, LTCM, almost brought down the entire global economy. And so, we should have known the riskiness of that.

The Obama administration has not proposed doing anything adequate about these. Some of the new things that the Obama administration proposed in January deal with other problems that, until then, had not been adequately dealt with—the problem of “too big to fail” banks. But the problem of these under-regulated derivatives remains, and therefore the risks remain.

Let me just emphasize, a part of this is this lack of transparency. One of the things is the Obama administration is trying to encourage more of the trading to go to standardized products traded on exchanges, but it isn’t really going to force it. And the depository institutions, the “too big to fail” institutions, that we underwrite—we the taxpayers bailed them out—are continuing to write most of these derivatives. So, in the end, these are insurance policies without the kinds of regulation that insurance normally requires, without the kind of careful analysis that insurance normally requires, but at the end, the US taxpayer bears the big losses when these gambles don’t work out. And so, while they’re, in a sense, sold as insurance, not regulated as insurance, they’re really gambling products, but they’re gambling where the potential losses are going to be borne by the US taxpayers. And we just haven’t done anything significant about this.

AMY GOODMAN: Joe Stiglitz, we’re going to leave it there. We want to thank you very much for being with us. The new book he has written is Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy. He’s a professor at Columbia University.