OBAMA OPENS NEW FRONT IN WAR ON EDUCATION
NY TIMES - President Obama said that he favored federal rewards for local school districts that fire underperforming teachers and close failing schools, saying educators needed to be held accountable when they failed to fix chronically troubled classrooms and curb the student dropout rate.
The president outlined his proposal to offer $900 million in federal grants, which would be made available to states and school districts willing to take aggressive steps to turn around struggling institutions or close them. . .
He spoke alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma, who lead America's Promise Alliance, an advocacy group dedicated to combating the school dropout rate. . .
He singled out Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, where last week the school board voted to dismiss the entire faculty as part of a turnaround plan for the school, which has a 48 percent graduation rate.
At Central Falls High, he said, just 7 percent of 11th graders passed state math tests. Mr. Obama said he supported the school board's decision to dismiss the faculty and staff members. . .
The president's comments incensed the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers, which criticized Mr. Obama for "condoning the mass firing" of teachers at the Rhode Island school.
"We know it is tempting for people in Washington to score political points by scapegoating teachers, but it does nothing to give our students and teachers the tools they need to succeed," the president of the union, Randi Weingarten, said in a statement.
In their efforts to overhaul failing public schools, Mr. Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, have frequently drawn the ire of teachers' unions. . .
COLIN POWELL'S ARMY
SAM SMITH, PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 1996 - Much of the military's intrusion into American life has been accomplished without public notice. For example, the Pentagon has greatly expanded JROTC programs. Last year, the American Friends Service Committee found retired military personnel teaching approximately 310,000 students, ages 14 and up, in about 2200 high schools (with another 700 on the docket). As the AFSC pointed out:
"Public schooling strives to promote respect for other cultures, critical thinking and basic academic skills in a safe environment. In contrast, JROTC introduces guns into the schools, promotes authoritarian values, uses rote learning methods, and consigns much student time to learning drill, military history and protocol, which have little relevance outside the military."
It pays off, though, for the Pentagon. Although the JROTC denies it is engaged in recruiting, 45% of all cadets completing the program sign up, mostly as enlisted personnel. AFSC also found that JROTC programs are more often found in schools with a high proportion of non-white students -- now providing 54% of all cadets -- and in non-affluent schools.
And what are these cadets being taught? Says the report:
"A comparison of the JROTC curriculum and two widely used civilian high school civics and history textbooks demonstrates that the JROTC curriculum falls well below accepted pedagogical standards. Units on citizenship and history are strikingly different from standard civil texts on these subjects.
"For example, . . . the JROTC text portrays citizenship as being primarily achieved through military service, provides only a short discussion of civil rights; and downplays the importance of civilian control of the military. . . .
I"n comparison to the civilian history text, historical events in the JROTC curriculum are distorted . . History is described as a linear series of accomplishments by soldiers, while the progress engendered by regular citizens is marginalized. America's wars are treated as having been inevitable.
"While it claims to provide leadership training with broad relevance, in fact the JROTC curriculum defines leadership as respect for constituted authority and the chain of command, rather than as critical thinking and democratic consensus-building . . . Finally, the text encourages the reader to rely uncritically on the military as a source of self-esteem and guidance."
Further, at a time that schools are trying desperately to discourage violence, the JROTC is teaching students how to kill more effectively. It is also teaching them -- in a text that addresses the "Indian menace" that "Fortunately the government policy of pushing the Indians farther West, then wiping them out, was carried out successfully. "
And just where did the idea come from for the expansion of military indoctrination in our high schools? From none other than that very media model of a major modern general: Colin Powell.
Following the LA uprising in 1992, writes Steven Stycos in the Providence Phoenix, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff "proposed a massive expansion of the program. Powell urged the new units be targeted to inner-city youth as an alternative to drug use and gang membership." In New England the number of students involved nearly tripled.
Was Powell seeking citizen officers to balance the academy-trained military? Absolutely not. The JROTC students are grunt-fodder. Besides, while referring to ROTC as "vital to democracy," Powell closed 62 college-based ROTC units during this same period. The inevitable result was that the proportion of academy-trained officers rose and the role of the citizen-officer diminished.
You may recall that Powell was the man whom the media pushed for president, depicting him as in the mold of Dwight Eisenhower. The media forgot to tell us that while Eisenhower warned of a growing military-industrial complex, Powell has been one of its biggest beneficiaries and boosters. While Eisenhower fought to restore democracy, Powell fought to preserve sheikdoms. While the Eisenhower-era military followed the wartime orders of strong civilian leaders like Churchill and Roosevelt, the Powell-era military won't even follow Bill Clinton's orders in peacetime. While Eisenhower was part of a unique military demobilization after the Second World War, Powell was among those who prevented demobilization after the Cold War. On top of which he wants kids to know that the Indians were a menace.