Saturday, June 30, 2012


Very interesting.  Yes, enormous diversity within ourselves as Latinos, Mexicanos or whatever we're called....



Richard G. Santos

    Regardless of what one calls the ethnic group, someone will disagree
and make a good argument for being called something else. This is due to
the fact that the ethnic group commonly called Tejanos, Hispanic, Latino,
Chicano, Mexican American  or mejicano (by culture not citizenship) is
composed of nine sub groups with different genealogical, educational,
socio-economic, religious affiliation and U. S. residency differences. It
is easier to identify what the ethnic members DO NOT have in common than it
is to identify anything anyone can agree with. For instance, not all (1)
are Spanish surnamed, (2) speak Spanish, (3) speak U. S. English with a
Mexican Spanish accent, (4) are Roman Catholic, (5) are  descendants of
Mexican immigrants, (6) are lower socio-economic, (7) use, or are addicted
to, drugs, (8) carry pocket knives and/or concealed weapons, (9) are
members of the Democratic Party, and (10) drive a Ford or Chevrolet with
beer can tabs (if single) or baby booties (if married), or a rosary (if
Catholic) hanging from the rear view mirror.

    Digesting the ethnic group chronologically and ethnically, we begin
with the oldest members who are the Native Americans of South Central
Spanish Colonial Texas.  Commonly called Coahuiltecan by anthropologists,
archeologists, linguists and historians, it was composed of stone age,
nomadic, non-associated family clans and small tribes. Many were
assimilated into the Tejano Spanish colonial society through bilingual,
mono-cultural, language transfer education at the Franciscan missions. The
non-missions were incorporated within the October 12, 1837 report of the
Republic of Texas Bureau of Indian Affairs when it stated: "The people
called Lipan (Apache), Karankawa and Tonkawa, your committee considers part
of the Mexican Nation and are not to be distinguished from that nation.
They occupy the western part of Texas."  In 1837, west Texas began at the
Colorado River extending west to the Rio Grande.  The Coahuiltecan who
roamed the geographic area automatically fell within the historic cultural
identification dictate along with the Lipan Apache, Tonkowa, Karankawa and
though not mentioned, the Quahadi and Yamparica Comanche. Their descendants
today do not know they are the oldest native and true Texans and Tejanos.

    The individuals and families of European ancestry who settled Texas
between 1690 and 1821 were of two distinct categories. The earliest and
more numerous settlers were the españoles of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and
Tamaulipas.  They were of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Sephardic Jewish
and Basque ancestry.  Some were sincere converts to Catholicism while many
were Crypto Jews who observed the Hebrew Faith in secret.  Without Rabbis,
yeshivas (school of religious instruction), living in a hostile environment
intolerance, the vast majority became Christians of various degrees of
sincerity.  Many can best be described as "Catholics by culture", or
mono-theistic and anti-clerical, anti-organized religion.

    The 15 families from the Canary Islands who in 1731 founded civilian
Villa San Fernando de Bexar (now San Antonio, Texas) were the only non
American Continent born settlers of Texas. Since the 1500's the seven
Canary Islands had been populated by Crypto Jews and conversos (New
Christians) of Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch Sephardic ancestry. The 15
families, totaling 59 individuals who founded San Antonio were not required
to prove Old Christian ancestry in migrating to the New World and the
Inquisition which never really took hold in the Canaries never operated in
Spanish colonial Texas!

    The third category of founding Tejanos during the Spanish Colonial
period were the mestizos (child of American continent born European
ancestry father and Native American mother and castizos (child of Native
American father and American Continent born European ancestry mother). The
vast majority of mestizos and castizos were of Tlaxcaltecan and American
Continent born European ancestry parents.  The Tlaxcaltecans had settled in
1559 at San Esteban de Tlaxcala, a suburb of Saltillo, Coahuila. Considered
full fledged members of Spanish North American society, they intermarried
freely with the American Continent born European, local Coahuiltecan and
free Blacks families. Their descendants were among the third founding of
Monclova, Coahuila in 1688, Bexar in 1716 - 1718, Nacogdoches and Goliad in

           The fourth category of Spanish Colonial settlers of Texas were
called "castas". That is, they were children of mixed marriages broken down
into 28 categories.  The most common castas in Texas were mulattos and
coyotes (child of a Black or mulatto and Native American parents).  Spanish
Colonial baptismal and marriage records (more than burial) as well as
census records, always indicated which casta a person belonged to.

    Regardless of the ethnic, racial background of the Spanish Colonial
settlers of Texas, it is imperative to note hey and their descendants have
resided in Texas since before the creation of the United States (1776) or
Mexico (1821).  In other words, neither they nor their ancestors, like the
non-mission Indians who were socially declared "Mexican" by culture and not
citizenship, never crossed the border between Mexico and the United States.
  They are the oldest residents of contemporary Texas.

    The anti-Mexican propaganda of the 1835-36 Texas revolution that
continued in anticipation of the Mexican War (1846-48) fanned by Manifest
Destiny and the desire by the U. S. to acquire all of Mexico, caused the
displacement of many Tejano families. The Tejano population of Nacogdoches
and Goliad as well as the land owners in the Nueces Strip were forced from
their homes and land grants by land speculators and anti-Mexican,
anti-Catholic U. S. migrants. Many families who had settled in Texas in the
1700's suddenly found themselves declared unwanted "enemies of the state"
and forced to migrate to the Mexican abutting states of Nuevo Leon,
Coahuila and Tamaulipas. Under threat of death, they abandoned their
ancient Spanish or Mexican land grants or at best forced to sell their land
at gunpoint.  Still a number stayed in and around San Antonio where they
went from the ruling class to the discriminated, segregated labor class.
  The few who cooperated and served the recently arrived managed to survive
as middle men between the remaining Tejanos and now ruling anti-Mexican,
anti-Catholic U. S. immigrants.  The social, economic, ethnic, religious
separation would exist until the end of World War II.

End ......................... End ........................ end .... End

Zavala County Sentinel          2 - 3 May 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Workforce Commissioner: Education Testing System is Broken

The business community is truly not a monolith.  Encouraging that this conservative businessman is saying that Texas' system of testing is broken.  These systems amount to bi-partisan bad policy.

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Workforce Commissioner: Education Testing System is Broken

Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken said Thursday that the state's current public education accountability system is "broken and badly in need of fixing."
During testimony at a hearing of the House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development on career and technology education, the former state GOP chairman expressed his disagreement with a coalition of business leaders and a conservative think tank that announced Wednesday it would oppose any additional funding to public education if there were any rollback of existing accountability standards.
Pauken, who along with two other commissioners oversees the development of the state's workforce, said he was surprised that the coalition claimed to speak for the business community and conservatives as it defended the existing testing system.
He said he had found widespread agreement among business leaders, teachers, school district officials and community college representatives he had spoken to around the state that "teaching to the test is one of the real reasons that we have a significant skill trade shortage."
Pauken said he spoke as both a businessman and a conservative when he criticized the position taken by the coalition.
"The current system does not hold schools accountable for successfully educating and preparing students — rather it makes them beholden to performance on a single test," Pauken said, adding that a consequence of the system was that "'real learning' has been replaced by 'test learning.'”
He also cited the worries of school officials that poor performance on the new tests would lead to a higher number of high school dropouts. "Unfortunately, the superintendents are right," he said, pointing to a March op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman by University of Texas professor Carolyn Heinrich that described reasearch on the subject.
Urging the next Legislature to address the testing issue, Pauken said that schools' success could be measured by "certification or licensure" in the chosen career field of students who don't go to college. And for those who went on to a university, he said, by their performance on tests like the SAT or ACT, which he said were "much harder to game."
The remarks come a day after the Texas Coalition for a Competitive Workforce held a news conference at the Capitol saying its members would not support additional funding to public education if it came with any changes to the existing accountability system. The coalition includes groups influential in the Legislature like the Texas Association of Business, Texas Institute for Education Reform, Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Texas Business Leadership Council.
“If we are going to remain competitive in the world’s market, we are going to have to have an educated workforce. We do not have one today,” said Bill Hammond, the president of the Texas Association of Business, said at the conference. “We will vigorously oppose additional money for the public school system unless and until we are certain that the current accountability system is going to be maintained.”
Texas students took the state's new standardized tests, the backbone of the new accountability system, for the first time this spring. The rollout of the STAAR exams — which were designed to be more rigorous and closely aligned to curriculum than their predecessors — has drawn frustration from educators, parents and lawmakers about the logistics and costs of their implementation and new rules about the way the tests factor into grading and graduation requirements.
The House Public Education Committee has held two hearings on the topic, in which lawmakers expressed support for doing away with a rule that the exams factor into 15 percent of a student's final grade.  More than 400 school boards have passed a resolution against high-stakes testing, saying that it is “strangling our public schools.” In January, outgoing Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott told a gathering of 4,000 school administrators that testing in the state had become a "perversion of its original intent" and played too great a role in the evaluation of schools' performance.
After lawmakers cut $5.4 billion from public education funding in 2011, more than half of the school districts in Texas, representing roughly 3.5 million students — or 75 percent of the overall total — have signed on to sue the state. A key part of their argument is that the Legislature has failed to provide enough funding for them to adequately meet the accountability standards it has put in place.
The Texas Association of Business has joined a separate lawsuit against the state related to school funding, one that asks the courts to determine whether the current system is “efficient” as required by the Texas Constitution.
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Standardized tests with high stakes are bad for learning, studies show

This piece by Professor Carolyn J. Heinrich, affiliated professor of economics at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs, provides a good argument on why Texas needs to seriously re-consider the direction it has taken vis-a-vis high-stakes testing.


Standardized tests with high stakes are bad for learning, studies show


Updated: 6:47 p.m. Saturday, March 10, 2012
Published: 6:43 p.m. Saturday, March 10, 2012

Standardized achievement tests have long been a routine part of our efforts to measure the educational progress of students. In the distant past, testing days came and went with little notice or fanfare for students, parents and teachers alike. And in those days and times, the tests probably provided fairly accurate assessments of students' progress in learning from one year to the next.

But those days of relatively relaxed test-taking for students and limited stakes for school districts and teachers are long gone. Test-based accountability systems that attach weighty consequences to student test results for school district staff, teachers, students and public officials are becoming increasingly institutionalized in the education system. There are probably few other places where the stakes attached to these tests are as high as they are in Texas.

There is a clear rationale for tying incentives for educational improvement to student achievement tests. We know from a variety of economic, psychological and management studies that people are highly responsive to incentives, even those that do not necessarily have individual rewards or sanctions linked to them or that may merely accord some form of public recognition (or shame) based on the results. Unfortunately, what the research has also definitively shown is that people will respond to these incentives in both intended and unintended ways, and the less control they feel they have over the measured outcomes and the more stringent the targets or performance tests, the more likely they are to respond perversely.
We have observed these patterns of unconstructive responses to performance incentives across a number of domains — health, workforce training, public assistance programs and more — but the evidence of serious problems has piled up faster in public education than in any other policy arena.
I was part of a National Academies of Science committee that was asked to carefully review the nature and implications of America's test-based accountability systems, including school improvement programs under the No Child Left Behind Act, high school exit exams, test-based teacher incentive-pay systems, pay-for-scores initiatives and other uses of test scores to evaluate student and school performance and determine policy based on them. We spent nearly a decade reviewing the evidence as it accumulated, focusing on the most rigorous and credible studies of incentives in educational testing and sifting through the results to uncover the key lessons for education policymakers and the public.

Our conclusion in our report to Congress and the public was sobering: There are little to no positive effects of these systems overall on student learning and educational progress, and there is widespread teaching to the test and gaming of the systems that reflects a wasteful use of resources and leads to inaccurate or inflated measures of performance.

Before high stakes are attached to a particular performance measure, such as math scores, it may very well correlate well with positive student outcomes that we are trying to encourage and build up. Indeed, the National Assessment of Educational Progress test is often used as a gauge for actual student performance specifically because it is a low-stakes test. But once a measure of performance is activated in a system that attaches significant consequences to its attainment, individuals are motivated to pursue all possible ways to raise measured performance, including those that do not contribute to the genuine goals of the system — goals such as increasing student knowledge and learning capabilities.
Studies published in the best economics and education journals have shown unequivocal evidence of excessive teaching to the test and drilling that produces inflated measures of students' growth in learning; cheating on tests that includes erasing incorrect answers or filling in missing responses; shifting of students out of classrooms or other efforts to exclude anticipated poor performers from testing, or alternatively, concentrating classroom teaching efforts on those students most likely to increase their test scores above a particular target, and other even more subtle strategies for increasing testing averages.

This type of behavior, which narrows the focus of classroom education and frequently diverts time and resources from more innovative and interactive approaches to teaching, has been characterized in academic literature and policy circles alike as "hitting the target and missing the point."

What we have come to understand to date about test-based accountability does not bode well for the new policy introduced by the Texas Legislature that will make the new STAAR student achievement tests count toward 15 percent of a student's course grade. After a wave of objections, state Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced last month that school districts may wait until a year from now to begin applying the 15 percent rule. If and when it kicks in, these are very high stakes to attach to a test, and this will undoubtedly have implications for how teachers and students spend their time in the classroom.
I am a parent of a freshman in an Austin public high school who is already fretting about what she understands to be very serious and formidable consequences of this new policy for her future. She found the questions on a practice exam to be largely unrelated to what she was learning in the classroom, and this was reflected in the scores she attained. How can she continue to spend five to six hours a night working on her regular schoolwork and preparing for exams created by her teachers and also find time to prepare for taking a separate set of tests that will count toward 15 percent of her course grade?

The empirical research again speaks to the unintended effects this policy is likely to generate: fear, reduced student motivation, increased withdrawals and lower graduation rates are examples of well-documented negative effects that this type of high-stakes testing induces.

In an assembly of parents, teachers, school staff and district officials, a presentation was made showing how the district will be working to improve the students' test-taking skills. The example suggested that if students do not know the meaning of a particular word in a test item, they would be taught to replace it with an "X" and focus instead on grasping the logic of the question phrasing that will give them a better chance of selecting the correct answer. In other words, if you do not understand the content, you can still improve your "guessing" skills through these efforts to help you become a better test-taker. Is this the way we want our children to spend their time in the classroom?

Maybe we should shift to the model widely used in some Asian countries where, in addition to classroom time spent on test-taking, the students spend 10-hour days on the weekends and their holiday breaks in test preparation classes that drill them in precisely this way. As a university professor, I have seen the results of this extreme focus on test-taking: These students score at the highest levels on tests that are reported in their admissions applications, but they score considerably lower on writing assessments, and most importantly, their performance in the classroom does not measure up to the test scores.

Incentivizing this type of intensive focus on improving test-taking capabilities is not going to help produce the better educated, more highly skilled and innovative workforce that business leaders and other employers assert is essential to competing effectively in the global economy.

Texas should be applauded for its tireless efforts to develop new policies that will increase educational effectiveness and to set high achievement goals for its students. But the latest rendition to incentivize better student performance in the form of a policy that ties 15 percent of a student's course grade to these tests is a step backward, not forward. It ignores a now broad base of evidence that these policies produce minimal or no positive effects on student learning and are likely to induce costly, negative responses in and beyond the classroom. I hope that the deferral of its requirement will give the state the time needed to revisit and retract this step in the wrong direction.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Texas Dominates List of Fastest-Growing Large Cities Since 2010 Census, Census Bureau Reports

Driving around Texas, it doesn't take much to see that our cities are undergoing a lot of change. Hopefully, most will be positive but not without good, thoughtful leadership at all levels.


Texas Dominates List of Fastest-Growing Large Cities Since 2010 Census, Census Bureau Reports
By Newsroom America Feeds at 9:22 am Eastern
News Release
Main Estimates Page
Detailed tables
State contacts
*Texas Dominates List of Fastest-Growing Large Cities *

*Since 2010 Census, Census Bureau Reports*

Texas had eight of the 15 most rapidly growing large cities between Census Day (April 1, 2010) and July 1, 2011, according to population estimates for all of the nation’s incorporated cities and towns and minor civil divisions released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“These estimates provide our first look at how much the total population has changed in each of our nation’s cities since we conducted the 2010 Census,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. “These numbers provide further evidence of a continuation of the trend of rapid population growth in Texas we observed between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.”

Although Texas dominated the list as a whole, the fastest-growing large city was outside the state. Among cities with populations of 100,000 or more in 2010, New Orleans, still rebounding from the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, ranked first, growing by 4.9 percent to 360,740. This puts the city’s population at 79.2 percent of the pre-Katrina July 1, 2005, estimate of 455,188.

One of Texas cities that made the list of fastest-growing cities ─ Round Rock ─ broke the 100,000 mark since the 2010 Census. Another, nearby Austin, cracked the 800,000 mark. (See Table 1 for complete list.)

Looking at the highest numerical growth, New York topped the list, adding nearly 70,000 people since the 2010 Census. Again, Texas was well-represented, with six cities among the top 15, including Houston, San Antonio and Austin, which ranked second, third and fourth, respectively. California checked in with three cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose; Phoenix; Denver; Charlotte, N.C.; New Orleans; and Washington also made the list. (See Table 2 for a complete list.)

New York continued to be the nation’s most populous city by a large margin, with 8.2 million residents in 2011, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago. The 15 most populous cities remained unchanged since the 2010 Census. However, Austin, Texas, moved up from 14th to 13th in total population, supplanting San Francisco. (See Table 3 for complete list.)

Other highlights:

--As of July 1, 2011, more than three in every five people living in the United States (62 percent or 194.4 million people) lived in incorporated places, commonly thought of as cities. More than a third of the nation’s population (37 percent or 116.2 million people) lived in cities with populations of more than 50,000.

--Overall, the population in cities grew by 1.0 percent across the nation between 2010 and 2011. However, large cities (285) tended to grow faster than the national rate at 1.3 percent. Large cities in the South (99 places) showed the largest growth at 1.8 percent, followed by those in the West (113 places) at 1.4 percent. Large cities in the Northeast (25 places) grew by 0.7 percent and the 48 large places in the Midwest grew by 0.6 percent.

--Of the 19,516 incorporated places in the United States, 715 had populations of 50,000 or more. Nine cities crossed the 50,000 mark since the 2010 Census, including two in Texas (DeSoto and Cedar Park with populations of 50,045 and 51,283, respectively) and the newly incorporated city of Eastvale in Riverside County, Calif., with a population of 54,930. No cities with populations of 50,000 or more in the 2010 Census dropped below the 50,000 mark.

For more information about the geographic areas for which the Census Bureau produces population estimates, see .


These estimates are produced using housing unit estimates to distribute the county population to subcounty areas within the county. The 2011 housing unit estimates are projections of average monthly housing unit change based on the Intercensal Estimates time series.

*Table 1. The 15 Fastest-Growing Large Cities from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011*
* *
Percent Increase 2011 Total Population
1. New Orleans 4.9 360,740
2. Round Rock, Texas 4.8 104,664
3. Austin, Texas 3.8 820,611
4. Plano, Texas 3.8 269,776
5. McKinney, Texas 3.8 136,067
6. Frisco, Texas 3.8 121,387
7. Denton, Texas 3.4 117,187
8. Denver 3.3 619,968
9. Cary, N.C. 3.2 139,633
10. Raleigh, N.C. 3.1 416,468
11. Alexandria, Va. 3.1 144,301
12. Tampa, Fla. 3.1 346,037
13. McAllen, Texas 3.0 133,742
14. Carrollton, Texas 3.0 122,640
15. Atlanta 3.0 432,427
*Table 2. The 15 Cities with the Largest Numeric Increase from April 1, 2010, to *
*July 1, 2011*
Numeric Increase 2011 Total Population
1. New York 69,777 8,244,910
2. Houston 45,716 2,145,146
3. San Antonio 32,152 1,359,758
4. Austin, Texas 30,221 820,611
5. Los Angeles 27,077 3,819,702
6. Dallas 25,413 1,223,229
7. Phoenix 23,815 1,469,471
8. Denver 19,960 619,968
9. Charlotte, N.C. 19,663 751,087
10. San Diego 18,773 1,326,179
11. New Orleans 16,911 360,740
12. Fort Worth, Texas 16,708 758,738
13. El Paso, Texas 16,416 665,568
14. Washington 16,273 617,996
15. San Jose, Calif. 14,875 967,487
*Table 3. The 15 Most Populous Cities: July 1, 2011*
2011 Total Population
1. New York 8,244,910
2. Los Angeles 3,819,702
3. Chicago 2,707,120
4. Houston 2,145,146
5. Philadelphia 1,536,471
6. Phoenix 1,469,471
7. San Antonio 1,359,758
8. San Diego 1,326,179
9. Dallas 1,223,229
10. San Jose, Calif. 967,487
11. Jacksonville, Fla. 827,908
12. Indianapolis 827,609
13. Austin, Texas 820,611
14. San Francisco 812,826
15. Columbus, Ohio 797,434
Robert Bernstein
Public Information Office
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Too many education “experts” are part of the problem

June 27, 2012

Too many education “experts” are part of the problem

by Clay Robison

Some of the business “leaders” who are bemoaning what they see as an inadequate public education system simply refuse to admit that they are a major part of the problem. Why?
The major, overriding problem with public education in Texas is that it is inadequately and inequitably funded by state government. And many of the self-styed education “experts” from the business community who are whining the loudest have been the strongest political supporters of Gov. Rick Perry and the legislative majority, which slashed $5.4 billion from the public schools’ budgets last year.
These same business people, including the Texas Association of Business, stood idly by, for the most part, and let it happen. Now, they are crying because they fear the Legislature next year will take steps to weaken the new STAAR testing program, an unpopular, unproven set of high-stakes tests that should be discarded in favor of a more realistic accountability system. They have gone so far as to demand that education funding be frozen if STAAR isn’t salvaged.
At least 11,000 teachers already have lost their jobs, and more than 8,400 overcrowded elementary classrooms were above the capacity limit during the recent school year – all because of the budget cuts. Freezing funding at that level while school enrollment continues to grow by about 85,000 students a year would simply be irresponsible. It also would be extremely short-sighted for a Texas business community whose future depends on an educated workforce.
Instead of continuing to deprive teachers and students of the resources they need to succeed, these business “leaders” should be demanding that the governor and the legislative majority adequately fund the public schools. In other words, they should start demanding accountability from the officials they have helped to elect and keep in office. Then, the powers-that-be should listen to concerned parents and enlist the real education experts – teachers – to help develop a fair, broad-based accountability system that actually means something and is based on more than standardized test scores.

State business leaders push back against school testing critics

Business leaders really do need to know their own self interest and they need to pay attention to what the research says about high-stakes testing and test development—that is, if they truly want an educated workforce in Texas.

I agree with this comment:  "The villain isn't parents or superintendents — it's the overemphasis on standardized testing," McCreary said. "Looking no further than their own children, parents know the system is broken."

Plus, so many of us have kids in school and we see first hand what it is doing to our children, their teachers, and how dysfunctional our systems are when geared to a narrow set of indicators. 

Rather than attack parents, administrators, researchers, and advocates, business should form common cause with us.  This could be a win-win situation but it won't happen overnight.  There is no silver bullet here folks and there is indeed a number of things to consider as we look and move forward toward the kind of educational system that we must continue to insist on for the 21st century.

Incidentally, these concerns aren't popping out the blue.  The very birth of this blog was inspired by a statewide movement to end high-stakes testing in the state of Texas.  Not standardized testing, but high-stakes testing, or how the tests are used.

Although the battle began in earnest with the GI Forum et al. v. Texas Education Agency et al., Supp. 2d 667 (W.D. Tex. 2000) spearheaded by Al Kauffman, MALDEF attorney.  And subsequently in the 2001 Texas Legislative Session with multiple criteria bills authored by State Representative Dora Olivo.

She is running for office again, by the way, in Fort Bend County, part of Jackson and part of Wharton—as a result of redistricting.


State business leaders push back against school testing critics

Updated: 11:48 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Published: 10:38 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Some influential business leaders on Wednesday warned that they would oppose additional money for Texas public schools if efforts to roll back the state's school accountability system move forward.
The Texas Coalition for a Competitive Workforce, which includes the Texas Association of Business and other power players at the state Capitol, said it was pushing back against the parents and educators who are calling for major changes to the new high-stakes testing system, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. Students took the new test for the first time this spring.
"Our opponents are spreading panic, making the problem worse, fanning the flames of concern and alarm," Dallas businessman Bernie Francis said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
Texas businesses argue that they are both a major source of tax dollars that pay for public schools and the end-user of the workers schools produce. They view the high-stakes accountability system as instrumental to ensuring students graduate ready for college or a job.
Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, said that concern among parents was the fault of school superintendents who have "gone about scaring moms."
Dineen Majcher, an Austin lawyer whose daughter will be a sophomore at Anderson High School this fall, said she was offended by the insinuation that parents are being led around by superintendents.
"We are smart enough to see what that system is and is not doing, and we can perfectly understand on our own that it is a badly flawed system that needs to be fixed," said Majcher, who listened to the news conference at the Texas Capitol.
In high school, STAAR includes 15 rigorous new end-of-course exams that ninth-graders started taking this spring.
To graduate, students must achieve a passing average in each of the core subjects. Beginning next year, the scores on those exams will also count as 15 percent of a student's final course grade.
Results released a few weeks ago show that students struggled on the new tests. On the English writing exam, for example, 55 percent of ninth-graders statewide met the minimum passing standard, and only 3 percent hit the college readiness standard that will be required in 2016.
Last week, state Rep. Rob Eissler, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, said at a hearing that he sensed that legislators wanted to scratch the 15-percent requirement.
But if legislators weaken STAAR, Francis said, they won't find support from the business community to put any more money into public schools, even though the state adds about 85,000 new students each year.
Local and statewide business leaders wield an enormous amount of influence with lawmakers, particularly on spending and tax issues. In the past, they have endorsed putting more money into education, and last year Hammond called for using the state's rainy day fund to avoid a $4 billion reduction in state aid to schools.
The business leaders would not offer specifics on what constitutes weakening.
Majcher, who is part of a new parent group called Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, said it was "inappropriate to hold public funding hostage to repairing the problems that we all know exist with the current testing system."
"The testing system is badly implemented, badly flawed; there are a lot of groups, a lot of parents who are working very hard to make positive corrections to that. I would not call that rolling it back. I think when we see a mistake, we make a course correction," she said.
Casey McCreary with the Texas Association of School Administrators said superintendents are actively engaged with their local communities and that their concerns about accountability reflect what they're hearing from parents and taxpayers.
"The villain isn't parents or superintendents — it's the overemphasis on standardized testing," McCreary said. "Looking no further than their own children, parents know the system is broken."
State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, said he wasn't interested in getting in the middle of a fight with Hammond and the others. But lawmakers need to maintain high standards without letting testing dominate the classroom, he said.
"Unless we do some modifications of the present strategies, I think there is going to be an even noisier rebellion among parents and educators," said Aycock, who has launched a blog at to gather suggestions for how to change the system.
Aycock said he was particularly concerned that the new tests would prompt more students to drop out of high school.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said he was supportive of STAAR and the business community's ultimatum on accountability.
"The business community understands the ramifications of a weak and ineffective education system more than anyone else, because they have jobs that they can't fill, they have workers that aren't skilled, and they have workers that are lacking basics in ... math and grammar," said Patrick, a leading member of the Senate Education Committee.
Patrick said he is open to changes if there are problems but that he hasn't been convinced that the perceived problems are real.
Not everyone in the business community is on board with linking new school funding and the accountability issue.
Drew Scheberle, senior vice president of education for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, said that school districts should ensure that their students are graduating ready for college or a job, particularly when they are asking voters to approve increases in their tax rate.
But Scheberle disagreed with the other business groups that the state should pull back on public school spending. The state has taken $600 million from Central Texas taxpayers in the name of public education and uses it to balance its own two-year budget, he said.
"It doesn't make sense for us to say, ‘Please, don't give us our money back,' " Scheberle said.
Contact Kate Alexander at 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Charter advocates sue over funding, cap on schools

Charter advocates sue over funding, cap on schools

New developments in Texas.  At issue is:

"As privately managed public schools, charter schools receive state dollars for each student.

The state, however, does not provide any extra money for charter schools to pay for buildings and classrooms."


UVA has its president back. But the fight to save our universities has only just begun
Thanks for sharing, Shabab Siddiqui.  This is one of the best pieces I've read in awhile on higher education.  It references Teresa Sullivan's recent dismissal at the U of Va.  She has since gotten her job back, but the larger attack in higher education continues.  This is ultimately, as says, an attack on values.  I've never read a more stirring appeal to "inefficiency," but then this is only a word and it's experienced as a narrowly-interested hammer. 


Some important quotes within:

"Instead of holding up their responsibility, states are divesting themselves of the commitment to help their young people achieve social mobility. States are rigging the system so that only the wealthy can compete for slots in the best universities. States shift the cost of higher education from taxpayers—all of whom benefit from living in a wiser, more creative society—to the students themselves. Yet students keep coming, desperate to enter the privileged classes, unable to imagine a different way through a cruel economy that has no use for the uneducated any more.

Universities are supposed to be special places where we let young people imagine a better world. They are supposed to be able to delay the pressures of the daily grind for a few years. They are supposed to be able to aspire to greatness and inspire each other. A tiny few will aspire to be poets. Many more will aspire to be engineers. Some will become both. Along the way they will bond with friends, meet lovers, experience hangovers, make mistakes, and read some mind-blowing books.

Does that sound wasteful? Does that sound inefficient? Nostalgic? Out-of-sync with the times? Damn right it does. But if we don’t want young people of all backgrounds to experiment with ideas and identities because it seems too expensive to support, we have to ask ourselves what sort of society we are trying to become."

For more context on all of this, read this piece on the U of Va, Sullivan, and the so-called "reformers."

A Much Higher Education

UVA has its president back. But the fight to save our universities has only just begun.


Last Saturday, I followed my father as he guided my sisters and me around the hyper-Modernist campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology on the south side of Chicago. Fifty years ago, he completed a Ph.D. in chemistry and began his pursuit of a dream of being a professor at an American university. We had gathered there to honor and thank him. One of my sisters, a librarian at the University of Chicago, presented him with a bound copy of his dissertation.
My father was a young man in his mid-20s when he arrived on a train from New York, after boarding a ship from London, after flying from Bombay, after a train from Madras, India. He had come to Chicago when he was one of only about 300 Indians in the whole city, almost all of them young men struggling to be engineers or scientists.
My father arrived unprepared for Chicago winters, or any winters, for that matter. He was a vegetarian. He was a Hindu. He had dark skin in a country where that fact excluded him from entry to some places and contact with some people. And he was lonely and homesick. Undeterred and drunk on the optimism that only Eisenhower’s America could provide, he put his faith in the American system of higher education to transform his life and give him the chance to use his mind to contribute to the boom in scientific knowledge that this country once sponsored and celebrated. He retired a few years ago after 40 years on the faculty of the State University of New York at Buffalo. He raised and educated three children. And he instilled in them a cosmopolitan sensibility and a deep respect for science and knowledge. He taught brilliant students and did some excellent science along the way.
My father embodies the potential of the American higher-education system. It’s something people around the world envy. It’s something governments around the world wish to emulate.
I thought of the risks and sacrifices my father made back then yesterday as I stood on the grounds of another great American institution of higher education, the University of Virginia, to welcome back its president, Teresa Sullivan.
Helen Dragas, the rector of the Board of Visitors, which runs the university, had requested Sullivan’s resignation two weeks ago in a botched attempt to circumvent usual board procedures. Sullivan resigned quickly, quietly, and with dignity. Sullivan stayed out of the way as news leaked out that the ouster was ideologically driven, executed by a tiny cabal of extremely wealthy alumni, and against the wishes of almost every student, alumnus, and faculty member of the university.
Apparently, Dragas wanted a president who would act more like a corporate CEO, someone who would push the university toward radical change, ignore pleasantries like orchestrating consensus among faculty and students, and roll out online gimmicks with reckless abandon.
Dragas demanded top-down control and a rapid transition to a consumer model of diploma generation and online content distribution. She wished to pare down the subjects of inquiry to those that demonstrate clear undergraduate demand and yield marketable skills. Such a purely transactional institution would have no appeal to a young immigrant scientist who needed time and space to explore a variety of big research questions. Sullivan, a proud consensus-builder and incrementalist, resisted such mindless calls for radical dismantling. So she was forced out.
After two weeks of massive protests, online activism, and a media blitz orchestrated by faculty and students who seemed far more deft at media relations than the wealthy Dragas and her hired public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, the entire board relented and voted unanimously to invite Sullivan back to her job.
Sullivan took the microphone after a 30-minute board meeting at which everyone said nice things about each other and the university. “We have problems at UVA—all of higher education does,” Sullivan said. “We are not in crisis, but change appropriate to our mission is necessary. … I am heartened by the fact that the events of the past week have created in us a spirit of unity that can help us make the needed improvements more quickly. The great strength we have discovered is how deep our commitment to this university runs, and how unified we can be when we pursue its best interests.”
I stood there on Thomas Jefferson’s lawn as everyone in the crowd exhaled with relief. Pleased, tired, and impressed by my students’ devotion to this place, I hugged my colleagues and high-fived students. But I am not comforted. This fight is not over.
We Americans take these institutions for granted. We assume that private enterprise generates what is so casually called “innovation” all by itself. It does not. The Web browser you are using to read this essay was invented at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The code that makes this page possible was invented at a publicly funded academic research center in Switzerland. That search engine you use many times a day, Google, was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation to support Stanford University. You didn’t get polio in your youth because of research done in the early 1950s at Case Western Reserve University. California wine is better because of the University of California at Davis. Hollywood movies are better because of UCLA. And your milk was not spoiled this morning because of work done at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
These things did not just happen because someone saw a market opportunity and investors and inventors rushed off to meet it. That’s what happens in business-school textbooks. In the real world, we roll along, healthy and strong, in the richest nation in the world because some very wise people decided decades ago to invest in institutions that serve no obvious short-term purpose. The results of the work we do can take decades to matter—if at all. Most of what we do fails. Some succeeds. The system is terribly inefficient. And it’s supposed to be that way.
Along the way, we share some time and energy with brilliant and ambitious young people from around the world. Many of them have the look that I imagine my father had when he showed up, coatless, at the front door of the chemistry building at IIT in 1956. They show confidence. They also show innocence. They are willing to listen to the wisdom of experience. But they believe in themselves enough to question it at every turn.
Many of these young people visit me and ask if the University of Virginia is right for them. It usually is. But we can take only a sliver of those who want and deserve to enroll. As President Sullivan strives to heal the wounds of the past two weeks and looks forward to fulfilling her goals, she will be trying to manage a significant increase in enrollment. Yet the resources we have to ensure these new students do as well as their predecessors are getting tighter and tighter. We will all work harder and smarter to make it work. But many of us are at the breaking point.
We hear every day from higher-education pundits who can’t seem to express themselves in anything other than jargon and buzzwords that American higher education is “unsustainable.” No. It’s just not adequately sustained. There is a big difference. We could choose to invest in people. We could choose to invest in culture. We could choose to invest in science and technology. We choose instead to imagine that there are quick technological fixes or commercial interventions that can “transform” universities into digital diploma mills. Pundits blame professors for fighting “change.” But they ignore the fact that universities are the chief site of innovation and experimentation in digital teaching and research and that professors might actually know what works and what does not.
Instead of holding up their responsibility, states are divesting themselves of the commitment to help their young people achieve social mobility. States are rigging the system so that only the wealthy can compete for slots in the best universities. States shift the cost of higher education from taxpayers—all of whom benefit from living in a wiser, more creative society—to the students themselves. Yet students keep coming, desperate to enter the privileged classes, unable to imagine a different way through a cruel economy that has no use for the uneducated any more.
Universities are supposed to be special places where we let young people imagine a better world. They are supposed to be able to delay the pressures of the daily grind for a few years. They are supposed to be able to aspire to greatness and inspire each other. A tiny few will aspire to be poets. Many more will aspire to be engineers. Some will become both. Along the way they will bond with friends, meet lovers, experience hangovers, make mistakes, and read some mind-blowing books.
Does that sound wasteful? Does that sound inefficient? Nostalgic? Out-of-sync with the times? Damn right it does. But if we don’t want young people of all backgrounds to experiment with ideas and identities because it seems too expensive to support, we have to ask ourselves what sort of society we are trying to become.
Higher education is not one system. There are multiple layers and a wide variety of institutions. But they all have one thing in common: They have a mission to use knowledge to empower people to imagine a better life and transform society. If we like where we are, let’s just forget about it and roll back public support for higher education. But if we aspire to better things as a society, not just as individuals, then we should rediscover the vision of public higher education that inspired the University of Virginia in the first place.
Unlike Harvard and Yale, UVA is not named for a person. Thomas Jefferson named The University of Virginia for a commonwealth instead of himself because it belongs to and serves the greater good of a commonwealth.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What Happens When Public Universities Are Run by Robber Barons
Wow. Big, big news. Our own Dr. Teresa Sullivan fired from her last post at the University of Virginia for vague reasons referring to a need for "strategic dynamism," and with little notice from one day to the next despite her popularity at UVA. Important read and important lessons here. Here's a quote:

"The inappropriateness of applying concepts designed for firms and sailboats to a massive and contemplative institution as a university should be clear to anyone who does not run a hedge fund or make too much money. To execute anything like strategic dynamism, one must be able to order people to do things, make quick decisions from the top down, and have a constant view of a wide array of variables. It helps if you understand what counts as an input and an output. Universities have multiple inputs and uncountable and unpredictable outputs. And that’s how we like them."

When outcomes-based accountability comes by our way again here in Texas, we should all take heed.


What Happens When Public Universities Are Run by Robber Barons

By Siva Vaidhyanathan, AlterNet
Posted on June 20, 2012, Printed on June 22, 2012

In the 19th century, robber barons started their own private universities when they were not satisfied with those already available. But Leland Stanford never assumed his university should be run like his railroad empire. Andrew Carnegie did not design his institute in Pittsburgh to resemble his steel company. The University of Chicago, John D. Rockefeller’s dream come true, assumed neither his stern Baptist values nor his monopolistic strategies. That’s because for all their faults, Stanford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller knew what they didn’t know.
In the 21st century, robber barons try to usurp control of established public universities to impose their will via comical management jargon and massive application of ego and hubris. At least that’s what’s been happening at one of the oldest public universities in the United States—Thomas Jefferson’s dream come true, the University of Virginia.
On Thursday night, a hedge fund billionaire, self-styled intellectual, “radical moderate,” philanthropist, former Goldman Sachs partner, and general bon vivant named Peter Kiernan resigned abruptly from the foundation board of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. He had embarrassed himself by writing an email claiming to have engineered the dismissal of the university president, Teresa Sullivan, ousted by a surprise vote a few days earlier.
The events at UVA raise important questions about the future of higher education, the soul of the academic project, and the way we fund important public services.
Kiernan, who earned his MBA at Darden and sent his children to the university, has been a longtime and generous supporter of both the business school and the College of Arts and Sciences, where I work as a professor. Earlier this year he published a book called—I am not making this up—Becoming China’s Bitch. It purports to guide America through its thorniest problems, from incarceration to education to foreign policy. The spectacle of a rich man telling us how to fix our country was irresistible to the New York Times, which ran a glowing profile of Kiernan and his book on Feb. 29.
At some point in recent American history, we started assuming that if people are rich enough, they must be experts in all things. That’s why we trust Mark Zuckerberg to save Newark schools and Bill Gates to rid the world of malaria. Expertise is so 20th century.
Kiernan played a strange and as-yet-unclear role in the ousting of Sullivan over last weekend. Here is the story of how it unfolded and how we came to know of Kiernan’s role in the matter.
Sunday morning my phones started ringing and my email box started swelling. The rector (what we in Virginia call the chairperson) of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors (what most states call a Board of Regents) had written an email to the entire university community announcing that Sullivan had resigned.
I can’t begin to describe the level of shock this generated among alumni, students, and faculty. Suffice it to say that everyone—every dean, every professor, every student, and every staff member at the university—was surprised. Even Sullivan did not have a clue that this was coming down until the Friday before the Sunday announcement. I can describe two things: the affection and respect that the university community had for president Sullivan in her two short years in office; and the bizarre turn of events that led to her forced resignation.
Sullivan is an esteemed sociologist who specialized in class dynamics and the role of debt in society. The author or co-author of six books, she spent most of her career rising through the ranks at the University of Texas, where she served as dean of the graduate school while I was working toward my Ph.D. in the late 1990s. She was known around Texas as a straightforward, competent, and gregarious leader. She carried that reputation from Texas to the University of Michigan, the premier public research university in the world, where she served as the chief academic officer, or provost, for four years.
When the University of Virginia sought a president to lift it from the ranks of an outstanding undergraduate school to a research powerhouse, while retaining its commitment to students and the enlightenment Jeffersonian traditions on which it was founded, the board selected Sullivan in 2010. She became the first woman to serve as president of UVA, a place she could not have attended as an undergraduate in the 1960s because it was all-male at the time.
The first year of Sullivan’s tenure involved hiring her own staff, provost, and administrative vice president. In her second year she had her team and set about reforming and streamlining the budget system, a process that promised to save money and clarify how money flows from one part of the university to another. This was her top priority. It was also the Board of Visitor’s top priority—at least at the time she was hired. Sullivan was rare among university presidents in that she managed to get every segment of the diverse community and varied stakeholders to buy in to her vision and plan. Everyone bought in, that is, except for a handful of very, very rich people, some of whom happen to be political appointees to the Board of Visitors.
We know from the email Kiernan inadvertently (stupid “reply all” button!) sent to a large group of Darden School supporters that he had plotted to convince many members of the board that Sullivan should go. The Sunday we all found out Sullivan had been forced out, Kiernan wrote in the email, “Several weeks ago I was contacted by two important Virginia alums about working with [Board rector] Helen Dragas on this project, particularly from the standpoint of the search process and the strategic dynamism effort.” Kiernan assured his readers that Sullivan was a very nice person whom he respected. And he reassured them that sharp, trustworthy people were handling the transition process: “And you should be comforted by the fact that both the Rector and Vice Rector, Helen Dragas and Mark Kington are Darden alums,” Kiernan wrote. “Trust me, Helen has things well in hand.”
In her initial letter to the university community and again in a statement later that Sunday, Dragas declined to offer any reason for dismissing Sullivan. One thing we have learned from watching universities in the past year is this: When a university president fails to report a pedophile football coach, it’s a good reason to fire him. But no one, including Dragas has ever even suggested that Sullivan had failed the university financially, ethically, or morally.
“The Board believes that in the rapidly changing and highly pressurized external environment in both health care and in academia, the University needs to remain at the forefront of change,” Dragas wrote in her initial email announcement. I have no idea what that means or why it pertains to Sullivan’s dismissal. I guess it means that stuff is changing. So the university must change. Firing a president is change.
On Monday Dragas, sensing that the university community might want some explanation for such a radical act, sent out a second message: “The Board believes this environment calls for a much faster pace of change in administrative structure, in governance, in financial resource development and in resource prioritization and allocation. We do not believe we can even maintain our current standard under a model of incremental, marginal change. The world is simply moving too fast.”
OK, then. It’s all about pace. I suppose this means the board will appoint a new president every two years. Or maybe more frequently, because that’s the only way to keep up with the pace of change.
Earlier in the statement Dragas wrote that “the board feels strongly and overwhelmingly that we need bold and proactive leadership on tackling the difficult issues that we face.” So we can derive from Dragas’ statements that Sullivan was not bold enough, fast enough, or “proactive” enough to guide a bucolic 193-year-old institution founded by a stocking-wearing guy who studied Greek and Latin for fun.
We were all baffled. So Sullivan did nothing wrong? The board would not even hint at the reason she was fired. Conspiracy theories quickly circulated to fill the vacuum. And they got worse after Kiernan’s letter unleashed an unfounded fear that an MBA “cabal” was in cahoots with Goldman Sachs to loot the university.
In a live appearance at the Rotunda, the central icon of the university, Dragas did say, “We had a philosophical difference about the vision of the future of the university.” So what were those differences? She won’t say.
Fortunately, Kiernan’s email, leaked to newspapers on the following Tuesday, contained some clues. “The decision of the Board Of Visitors to move in another direction stems from their concern that the governance of the University was not sufficiently tuned to the dramatic changes we all face: funding, Internet, technology advances, the new economic model. These are matters for strategic dynamism rather than strategic planning.” Wait. What? “Strategic dynamism?” That struck many around the university as “strategic neologism.” Kiernan used the phrase two more times in his short email to supporters.
Laughter ensued. It’s the catch-phrase of the year at the University of Virginia.
I have spent the past five years immersed in corporate new-age management talk. For my recent book, The Googlization of Everything—and Why We Should Worry, I immersed myself in the rhetoric of Silicon Valley and the finance culture that supports it. I subjected myself to reading such buzzword-dependent publications as Fast Company. So I had heard about “strategic dynamism” before. I can’t say that I understand it fully. But if my university is going to be governed by a mysterious buzzphrase, I had better try.
Strategic dynamism, or, as it is more commonly called, “strategic dynamics,” seems to be a method of continually altering one's short-term targets and resource allocation depending on relative changes in environment, the costs of inputs, and the price you can charge for outputs. In management it means using dynamic graphs to track goals and outcomes over time, and having the ways and the will to shift resources to satisfy general goals via many consecutive short-term targets. Most management textbooks offer equations one may use to dynamically chart and execute strategy. And for all I know it makes a lot of sense.
Consider sailing, which one might do if one is a hedge fund billionaire from Connecticut. In sailing one sets a general course to a distant target but tacks and shifts depending on the particular environmental changes. I understand why “dynamic” is better than “static.” Who wants a static sailboat? But is a university, teeming with research, young people, ideas, arguments, poems, preachers, and way too much Adderall ever in danger of being static?
The inappropriateness of applying concepts designed for firms and sailboats to a massive and contemplative institution as a university should be clear to anyone who does not run a hedge fund or make too much money. To execute anything like strategic dynamism, one must be able to order people to do things, make quick decisions from the top down, and have a constant view of a wide array of variables. It helps if you understand what counts as an input and an output. Universities have multiple inputs and uncountable and unpredictable outputs. And that’s how we like them.
Still, this cultish diction seems to have swayed at least a few people on the Board of Visitors. It helped convinced them that Sullivan was either not strategic enough or dynamic enough or both. Almost a week after the event and in the face of harsh and universal condemnation, the board itself remains silent about its specific disagreements with Sullivan. The Kiernan letter is the only text that guides us.
We on the faculty, joined by thousands of students and alumni, have been asking the board for two simple things. Would it please tell us the specific issues on which it disagreed with Sullivan? And would it please tell us what sort of person it thinks should be president of the university … and for how long?
Both the Kiernan letter and Dragas’ shallow statements discuss the climate facing the university and all public universities in the United States. The problem is, everyone seems to discuss the fact that universities have too little money as if it actually were a matter of climate.
It’s not. It’s a matter of politics. States have been making policy decisions for 20 years, accelerating remarkably since the 2007 recession, to cut funding severely, shifting the costs to students and the federal government. Adjusted for inflation, state support for each full-time public-college student declined by 26.1 percent from 1990 to 2010. Meanwhile, faculty and staff salaries have been plummeting and security evaporating. This is especially true at the University of Virginia, where state support per student is far lower than at comparable state universities such as North Carolina.
So as tuition peaks and federal support dries up, the only stream still flowing is philanthropy. Our addiction to philanthropy carries great costs as well as benefits to public higher education in America. We are hooked on it because we have no choice. Either we beg people for favors or our research grinds to a halt and we charge students even more. I am complicit in this. I enthusiastically help raise money for the university. And my salary is subsidized by a generous endowment from board member Tim Robertson, son of the Rev. Pat Robertson.
The reason folks such as Dragas and Kiernan get to call the shots at major universities is that they write huge, tax-deductable checks to them. They buy influence and we subsidize their purchases. So too often an institution that is supposed to set its priorities based on the needs of a state or the needs of the planet instead alters its profile and curriculum to reflect the whims of the wealthy. Fortunately this does not happen often, and the vast majority of donors simply want to give back to the institutions that gave them so much. They ask nothing in return and admire the work we do. But it happens often enough to significantly undermine any sense of democratic accountability for public institutions.
The biggest challenge facing higher education is market-based myopia. Wealthy board members, echoing the politicians who appointed them (after massive campaign donations) too often believe that universities should be run like businesses, despite the poor record of most actual businesses in human history.
Universities do not have “business models.” They have complementary missions of teaching, research, and public service. Yet such leaders think of universities as a collection of market transactions, instead of a dynamic (I said it) tapestry of creativity, experimentation, rigorous thought, preservation, recreation, vision, critical debate, contemplative spaces, powerful information sources, invention, and immeasurable human capital.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Siva Vaidhyanathan is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. He also teaches in the School of Law, and is the author of The Googlization of Everything and Why We Should Worry.
© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Monday, June 11, 2012

Wisconsin: What Happens When Movements Turn Into Campaigns

According to Dixon in this excellent piece, a lack of sufficient risk taking destroyed the potential in Wisconsin to incite real change. -Angela

Wisconsin: What Happens When Movements Turn Into Campaigns

Wed, 06/06/2012 - 19:53 — Bruce A. Dixon

How did we get from hundreds of thousands in the streets of Madison, Wisconsin demanding union rights for everybody and fundamental economic justice for all, to a desultory set of Democratic campaigns for the candidates who, as they say, sucked the least, and ended up losing.

Wisconsin: What Happens When Movements Turn Into Campaigns
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Sixteen months ago the eyes of the nation and the world were on Madison, Wisconsin. Crowds in the tens of thousands surrounded, occupied and refused to leave the state capitol building. Local cops ignored orders to disperse them, and when authorities finally evicted protesters from hallways, offices and legislative chambers, their numbers grew, reaching the hundreds of thousands multiple times before the crisis was over. Local schools were shut down because teachers called in sick en masse. For a short while a general strike, localized in Madison, but with wide and visible support around the state and country seemed a real possibility.

Thousands of Americans from surrounding states converged upon Wisconsin to join the throngs around the state capitol. Thousands in those crowds, and countless others watching from far and near began to realize this was a unique political moment. They were at a place well outside the prescribed steps of America's political dance. It was a moment in which the elite politicians, the media pundits, the bosses and the billionaires were not the only or even the decisive shot callers. The next move was truly in the hands of those tens and hundreds of thousands of working people in motion, the people in the streets.

What we saw coming together on Wisconsin street corners and in the wave of state and nationwide public support behind them was an authentic mass movement being born. We know that's what it was because it contained, all at the same time, what we identified back in 2005 as the five necessary characteristics of such things;

Mass movements have political demands anchored in the deeply shared values of their core constituencies.

Mass movements look to themselves and their shared values for legitimacy, not to courts, laws or elected officials.  A mass movement consciously aims to lead politicians, not to be led by them.

Mass movements are civilly disobedient, and continually maintain the credible threat of civil disobedience. They inspire and embolden large numbers of ordinarily nonpolitical souls to engage in personally risky behavior in support of the movement's political demands.

Mass movements are supported by lots of vertical and horizontal communication reinforcing its core values.

Mass movements capture the energy, enthusiasm and risk taking spirit of youth. Nobody ever heard of a mass movement of old or even middle aged people.

Fox News and right wing pundits spread panicky lies. Republicans denounced Democrats and defamed protesters. Some Democrats hesitated before tepidly endorsing the protests. Some smarter Democrats tried to pretend they were among its leaders. But these were bit players, working from the outside. It fell to labor union leaders, whose political strategy for more than a generation has been to uncritically funnel their members volunteer energies and union dues into uncritical support for Democratic politicians whether they come through or not, to bring those hundreds of thousands in uncontrolled, unpredictable political motion back inside the law, back within the two-party elite consensus, back into the well-worn dance steps of the election cycle.

Thus it was union leaders who damped down the calls for, and explicitly repudiated talk of a general strike. To be fair, under present federal and state laws, a union official who even calls for, let alone is part of pulling off a general strike is probably guilty of multiple felonies and conspiracies to commit, perhaps even RICO and terrorist prosecutions if judges and district attorneys are feeling ambitious. Such an official also risks confiscation of union funds and assets, either outright in a hurry or after prolonged expensive litigation. But that's what people involved in movements do --- they take individual and collective risks and they violate laws for the cause, whatever that happens to be.

So there was no general strike. Union leaders ran as fast as they could in the other direction. They summoned their institutional resources, their organizers and media spokespeople, and their funding. They turned a nascent movement into a series of electoral campaigns, first against a handful of state senators in 2011 and then the statewide recall campaign that ended in defeat this week. They turned the movement into a campaign, and then managed to lose the campaign.

Political campaigns are pretty much where movements go to die, get betrayed or are stillborn because turning a movement or near movement into a campaign robs it of the very specific features we've already mentioned, the features which make movements potent and often unpredictable political actors. When movements become campaigns their participants lose their independence and initiative. Instead of being ready and willing to act outside the law, they become its most loyal supporters. And instead of looking to their own shared values, they look to political candidates and elected officials who must remain inside the elite-defined rules of political decorum and law to preserve their candidacies and/or careers.

The campaigns that come out of movements still retain and utilize lots of horizontal communication. But instead of that chatter reinforcing the independence and dynamic energy and the risk-taking spirit of youth, it becomes all about the political processes and compromises needed to win the next election. And when a movement's core values are no longer the gold standard, there are lots of compromises to be made. It can be a pretty quick slide from hard hitting demands like full employment with a living wage, Medicare for all, free quality education as a human right, stopping the bailouts, guaranteeing union rights for everyone and ending the imperial wars to electing the candidate that sucks the least, even only a little less.

When would-be movements sideline the youthful risk-taking initiative and egalitarian core values that might have sustained them to become political campaigns, they generally don't even run good campaigns. The crowds on the sidewalks and parking lots in Madison were conducting anti-racism seminars and study groups. But the electoral campaign the whole thing was turned into, even though they had a whole year to plan, neglected to do the labor-intensive ground game of massive voter registration in poor and minority communities. They spent their relatively scarce dollars on media instead, and pursued the easy consultant-class strategy of pursuing the “frequent voters” alone. They didn't talk about the poor and renters, of which there are many in Milwaukee, Wisconsin's largest city. They only talked about the middle class. They didn't talk much about mass incarceration either, even though Wisconsin and Milwaukee consistently have the highest rates of black imprisonment in the US, higher than Louisiana, Georgia or Mississippi.

They came up with a black candidate for lieutenant governor. But mostly they went from hundreds of thousands of people shivering in the cold, standing outside the people-proof, democracy-proof cages of elite consensus and two-party politics and beginning to feel their own power to decide what to do next to folks campaigning for the candidate and the slate that sucked less.

If the leaders of organized labor were teachable there would be lots of lessons here. But these are folks who've learned nothing and forgotten nothing, and whose job is making sure most of us don't learn much new either. For them, the lesson is that turning aside a general strike situation and making it into a political campaign can drag their careers out a few more years. For the rest of us, the 99%, there are other lessons. What we've seen in Wisconsin is what happens when you stifle a mass movement at birth and turn it into a political campaign.

You always lose the movement. You usually lose the campaign. And you always lose the initiative. Labor leaders handed the ball to elected Democrats, to campaign consultants and media hacks. They took the struggle from the street, where they had the advantage, to the TV and radio airwaves and in social media, where the unlimited spending allowed recent court decisions and corporate control over mass media made all the difference.

In theory, it might be possible to get some other result from turning movements into campaigns. But in the real world, this is the way it's worked out so far.

If turning movements into campaigns is bad business, what about building movements out of campaigns?

Using campaigns to spark movements hasn't worked well either, though it gets talked about a lot. You can sometimes get young people excited for a while in a political campaign too. Millions of youth gave freely of their time to help elect Obama in 2008. But the day after election day they were sent home. No movement there. A generation earlier folks who walked the precincts for Jesse in 84 and 88 promised to build a lasting movement out of their networks. It didn't happen then either, and almost never does.

When we bear in mind again the unique characteristics of a movement it's easy to see why. Political campaigns, even successful ones, don't teach risk-taking. Political campaigns don't prepare you to operate outside the law or how to discredit and de-legitimize unjust law.. Campaigns won't show you how to make the politicians follow you, instead of you following the politicians, the judges, the pundits and that whole elite crowd. Real change comes from movements, not from campaigns. The only thing that makes the politicians follow you is a mass movement, a movement that does everything political campaigns don't.

The only worthwhile political campaigns are ones that utilize public receptivity to discussions around issues to present and make popular accurate analyses of the world the way it is, and compelling visions of the world the way we want it to be. Not the candidate that sucks least. Win or lose, these are the only campaigns that empower people, the only ones worth pouring your energy into, the only ones that build, rather than strangle and discourage mass movements.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor of Black Agenda Report, and serves on the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)