Contents, November 2011
Education for sale?
A watershed moment for Occupy movement
Before we get too excited about the change in consciousness sweeping through communities around the United States and many parts of the world through the Occupy movement, it’s a good idea to maintain a little bit of perspective.
In State College, Penn. there was a populist uprising too the other day. It wasn’t for social or economic justice, or a protest against a corporatist political system rigged to drain every dime out of the pockets of working people while enriching the plutocratic 1 percent. No, it was a protest against the firing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. The iconic Joe Pa was found to have all but ignored knowledge of the rape of a10-year-old boy by a former assistant coach, part of a pattern of pedophilia allegedly going back 10 years or more and involving numerous victims, according to indictments handed down against Jerry Sandusky by a Pennsylvania grand jury.
Now there’s a cause worth fighting for, because what’s more important—the shattered lives of innocent juveniles or the success of a major college football program? To prove their point, some Penn State students turned a peaceful gathering into a riot, hours after the announcement of Paterno’s dismissal, overturning a television van and attempting to start several fires.
Even more jaw-dropping was the reaction of a group of former Nittany Lion players, who were planning a show of support for the program by making donations to Sandusky’s defense fund and appearing en masse before the next scheduled home game. Sources told ESPN that as a way to possibly honor Paterno, some current Penn State players have discussed bringing a game ball to the fired coach’s house if the team were to defeat Nebraska. They didn’t.
As the media advance a negative perception of Occupy, and the movement itself produces some serious contradictions, it’s necessary to understand that it will be a steep uphill climb to produce meaningful change in an environment of cognitive dissonance, set against a backdrop of ignorance, addiction to sports and other distractions, and all the other mechanisms of denial built into what passes for 21st-century western civilization. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, it is difficult to make a convincing case for manipulation of the population when the victims prove so eager for the experience.
As our focus in this issue on education spotlights, every aspect of our society, including education, is besieged by the same force of runaway capitalism, putting sweeping pressure on all of our institutions to privatize for the benefit of the tiniest plutocratic minority that increasingly controls our government, our financial nexus and even our popular culture. When there increasingly seems to be no future for the 99 percent, no fairness, justice, equality, opportunity or prospect of a better life for our children or grandchildren, people need something to look forward to, whether it’s a gadget like an iPhone or an Xbox, Lindsay Lohan’s latest run-in with the law or next Saturday’s big game.
With the perceptive observations of educators, lawmakers, social workers and others who have contributed articles to this issue of The Light of New Mexico, a clear picture emerges of an education system that is increasingly focused on artificial results such as scholastic performance criteria, while the critical needs of providing a rounded education and guidance toward creative thinking and community-building are flagrantly neglected, even demonized. Teachers, unions and parents are blamed for what is really a cultural shift produced in large part by the empowerment of the wealthiest among us.
On Sept. 17, Occupy Wall Street began in New York City, part of it planned by disparate activist groups, part of it spontaneous, driven by social media and word of mouth, and part of it thanks to the willpower of a few stubborn visionaries, sensing the time was right after the successes of the Arab Spring (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/occupy-wall-street-origins). It is too soon to say what the future holds for this unprecedented expression of activism, which is at once inclusive and directly democratic, humanistic and nonhierarchic.
As encampments begin to deal with winter weather and influxes of transients and other hardcore homeless elements, a watershed moment is looming: Will the politically motivated participants be able to direct the movement toward its core issues of raising consciousness and effecting change in government and social and economic justice, or will the movement be compromised by fractionalism and dissension, as health and survival in the camps themselves threatens to take center stage?
Just as violence from within the movement is completely counter to its essential nature and goals, a “balkanization” effect resulting from sub-communities hijacking the movement for their own self-interested ends will likely spell doom in the long run. The MSM, eager for any sensationalist angle that can explain a movement they really don’t understand, will pounce on any negative developments, as will inevitably arise as drifters and grifters are drawn to camps offering free food and lodging, especially with the onset of colder weather.
Occupy groups everywhere will need to decide very soon if they want to maintain encampments that arose as expressions of conscience-driven civil disobedience—both symbolic and literal—or move on to more pressing needs. These begin with building popular support by illuminating and defining the unjust, immoral institutions and centers of power that have hijacked our democracy and threaten our future.
Each of us who cherishes its existence and harbors hope for its success must step forward and contribute in the best way we can (http://www.occupytogether.org/actions/), or else bear witness to yet another false start as the clock winds down for democracy, and perhaps all of human civilization.
Steve Klinger, The Light of New Mexico editor, can be reached at [email protected]
There have been whisperings coming out of some quarters of the Occupy movement that it might make sense for the movement to lock arms with the Tea Party around certain common grievances. The corruption of big money in politics is one such grievance. The huge spending on military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan is another. And the government’s costly bailout of the banks—a complaint heard more often in the early days of the Tea Party’s rise than it is now—is yet another. Does such an alliance, even around singular grievances and aimed at specific goals, make for sound politics?
Even as we discern echoes of our own dissatisfactions in the rhetoric and slogans of the Tea Party, it is vitally important to distinguish the source of our disaffection from the policies and institutions that we would see put in its place. In short, we must always ask whether a political party or a movement that opposes what we oppose does so from a progressive or from a reactionary point of view.
History is the great teacher for political activists, and the historical outcome of any movement is the final arbiter of its true nature. In that vein let us recall that in its early days National Socialism, or as we know it today, the German Nazi Party, railed against the big banks, denounced the industrial cartels, and held the Weimar government responsible for not protecting its citizens from the abuses of both. Its political rhetoric and biting slogans seduced the German middle class, whose savings were wiped out in the hyperinflation of 1923, and large sectors of the working class, thrown out of work by the depression of 1930, into seeking salvation in National Socialism. We all know the nightmare into which that salvation led the German people, and indeed the whole world.
How, then, can we discern what is underneath the rhetoric, and what is in fact behind the slogans, of a movement? I suggest three ways, each brought to light by the posing of a question: (1) What is the nature of the energies that inform the movement? (2) How does the movement frame its discontent? And (3) who stands behind it and finances it? Let us consider these three questions in reverse order as it pertains to the Tea Party movement.
The largest single source of financing behind the Tea Party, and without which it can reasonably be said there would be no Tea Party, are the Koch brothers. Americans for Prosperity, an organization with chapters in 33 states and claiming some two million members, was founded and funded by Charles and David Koch, owners of the second-largest privately-held corporation in the country. Americans for Prosperity was the organizational arm of the initial Tea Party demonstrations. The Koch brothers were also the founders of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank promoting deregulation, free markets and unfettered capitalism. They consistently supported, and contributed heavily to, the campaigns of the most conservative right-wing candidates of the Republican Party, and unabashedly take credit for the Republican sweep of the House of Representatives in the election of 2010. Their company has interests in the chemical industry, oil refining, the paper industry and financial services. Can anyone believe for a moment that Charles and David Koch have any interest in promoting democracy, or that they understand freedom in any way other than the freedom to rake in as much profit as possible? Which leads to the next question: Can a political movement financed and organized by such men have as its aim the prosperity of the mass of working people in the country?
Now let’s consider how the Tea Party frames its discontent. It claims it is opposed to big government, by which it means government spending. All government spending? No, it is very specific as to the kinds of spending it opposes. It opposes spending on welfare for the poor, on Social Security for retired workers, on Medicare for the elderly, on public schools and Head Start programs for children, on family-planning centers for women, and for all those social benefits that any civilized industrial society can be expected to provide its citizens. What else does the Tea Party oppose? It opposes the right of a woman to choose. It opposes the right of an undocumented immigrant to a decent wage, medical care and safe, sanitary working conditions. It opposes strong unions and the right of their members to collective bargaining. It opposes the right of an individual to choose the manner in which to express his or her sexual desire. And what is the Tea Party for? It is for “family values,” a code word for the authoritarian, patriarchal structure of society, breeding ground for the authoritarian personality, the personality of an individual, which looks instinctively to the “authorities” for its direction in all aspects of life. It is for an unquestioned nationalism, and its brutal underside, a fierce and fearful xenophobia, and the giving of an equally unquestioned loyalty to the foreign policies of an imperial state. Is this a party with which we want to ally, around any issue whatsoever?
Finally, what is the nature of the energies that inform the movement? In a word, hate. Here are some slogans I lifted from the signs held by Tea Party members at recent rallies: Barack Hussein Obama—The New Face of Hitler. The Anti-Christ Is Living In The White House. Impeach The Muslim Marxist. We Are a Christian-Nation. Save White America. We Came Unarmed (This Time). Lynch the Socialist Dog [with a picture of President Obama hanging from a rope]. And then there was a picture of the President, decked out in beard and turban, holding up his hand before a group of bearded and turbaned Muslims brandishing military rifles, with planes overhead flying into the World Trade Center, saying, “Whoa boys! I’ll take it from here.”
Make no mistake: the political tendency of the Tea Party is ultra-reactionary, even fascist. In rallying around such rhetoric, and giving voice to such reactionary impulses, the constituents of the Tea Party are digging their own graves, which raises the most incisive of all political questions: How can such a large group of people, people who are oppressed in every aspect of their working and family lives, give such full-throated support to the very forces of their oppression? This is the question asked (and answered) by Wilhelm Reich in his Mass Psychology of Fascism. It is the question raised by Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer and other members of the Frankfurt School. I suggest we explore their work as we set out along the political road before us. But one thing we can know beforehand, and with certainty: The Tea Party is not an organization with which we want to affiliate, under any conditions and in any circumstances. We can empathize with their rage, for their rage is justified. We can sympathize with their plight, for it is the plight of all of us. Yet for all that, we must distance ourselves from their politics and, most crucially, from their hate.
Fred Goldberg has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Brandeis University and has taught philosophy at M.I.T., San Jose State University, Montana State University and the University of California at Santa Cruz. For the past several decades he has been an investment adviser and a securities portfolio manager, initially with his own investment company, more recently with a New York-based securities firm. Over the past several years he has taught philosophy courses at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
When the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) released the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rankings for 831 public schools in July, Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera was quick to jump on the results as a reason to call for sweeping reform.
According to PED, “The AYP rankings reveal that nearly 87% of New Mexico’s schools are not making adequate progress under the federal No Child left Behind (NCLB) Act. When it comes to student proficiency, only 42% of New Mexico students perform at grade level in Math and Science and only 50% are proficient in Reading.”
“The message couldn’t be clearer: our children need education reform now,” said Skandera. “Educators know almost 87% of our schools aren’t failing, and that’s why we need reforms like our A through F school grading system.”
Senate Bill 527 (A through F), which Gov. Susana Martinez signed into law on March 29, must receive a waiver by the U.S. Department of Education to replace the NCLB accountability ratings. PED described A through F as follows:
Based on objective measures, such as student achievement and progress, with a particular focus on the lowest performing 25 percent of students, schools will be assigned letter grades of A, B, C, D, or F – the same grades students receive – and these grades will b posted on an easily accessible website. Schools that earn an “A” or improve a letter grade will be recognized for excellence or progress, creating an incentive for improvement in student learning. Students in failing schools will receive targeted assistance. Under federal law, meaningful intervention for failing schools can sometimes be a five-year process. The new law calls for immediate intervention after two years for schools that have earned an “F” by targeting resources to improve these schools, helping struggling students and giving parents more options.
On Nov. 1, PED cranked up the drumbeat in announcing the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The department said the new results “once again show New Mexico students can’t afford to wait for reform.”
NAEP, also known as the “nation’s report card” is a national assessment given to students in the 4th and 8th grades. New Mexico’s scores showed mixed results this year, with students in both grades making gains in Math. However, reading scores in New Mexico continue to remain flat and rank well below the national average, according the PED announcement.
But among educators, concerned parents and other observers of New Mexico’s dysfunctional education system, many are questioning exactly what is meant by the secretary-designate’s (and the Martinez administration’s) concept of “reform.” With all the shortcomings of NCLB, will the alternative “A through F school grading system” produce the turnaround Skandera envisions, or will it quicken the pace toward privatization of New Mexico’s schools, with new and artificial performance standards, new pressures for teachers and school administrators, and even less likelihood of producing students prepared to advance into the job force or higher education, with a rounded K-12 education and an ability to think independently and creatively? When it comes to performance standards for students—or schools—are we asking the right questions about what should be measured, and how?
We asked educators on a variety of levels, elected officials, teachers’ union leaders and others to provide their perspectives. The articles they submitted appear on the following pages.
For detailed NCLB rankings for all of New Mexico’s 89 school districts, the public can visit the PED website: http://ped.state.nm.us/ayp2011/. For NAEP national and state results, see
It’s no surprise that N.M. Education Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera is taking steps to undermine public education. The problem is that the educational model she and her backers pursue isn’t education at all. It’s operant conditioning.
Earlier this year I wrote about the questionable nomination of Skandera to the post of New Mexico secretary of public education, a job for which she is, on evidence, unqualified (http://www.nmpolitics.net/index/2011/03/the-problem-with-skandera/). Given her lack of a proper background and experience as an educator I wondered just what she was about.
As it turned out, Skandera failed to be confirmed for the secretary position during the 2011 regular session and so has held her office as “secretary-designate.” Since holding this office, and without the mandate accorded by legislative approval, she has taken steps designed to undermine the authority of the Public Education Commission and the future of public education in the state.
Skandera came to New Mexico with a mission—to undertake the process of privatizing public education. She came here under the auspices and/or recommendations of various right-wing “foundations” and “institutes.” In some of them she had previously served as an officer.
Skandera and New Mexico are not alone in this scheme, as she has numerous counterparts across the country, all paid for by the same cabal of wealthy and influential individuals who underwrite the so-called “foundations” and “institutes” that finance their industrialized vision of public school reform. Here in New Mexico, Skandera has the backing of one of those so-called “foundations,” that being the Rio Grande Foundation and its chief executive Paul Gessing (http://www.democracyfornewmexico.com/democracy_for_new_mexico/2010/12/bullhorn-journal-exposes-inconvenient-truths-on-paul-gessing-rio-grande-foundation-.html).
The majority of financial support for this “foundation” comes from out-of-state “foundations” and donors. Gessing’s donors include, among others, Donor’s Capital Fund of Virginia, State Policy Network of Virginia, Roe Foundation of South Carolina, Wal-Mart of Arizona and the Atlas Foundation of Washington DC.
A clear warning of an agenda
The obvious duplicity and fact-torturing employed by these so-called “foundations” and “institutes,” which are underwritten by some of the wealthiest people in the United States, ought to be a clear warning to all that they have an agenda. The shuck and jive surrounding their propaganda is patently transparent. What they are after is to defame, de-unionize, scrap and then privatize public education across the United States.
They are beginning with the founding and underwriting of variations on the charter-school theme. Charter schools, across the board, do not have a better academic record than their public school counterparts. What they do offer is that they are generally free of teachers’ unions, a holy grail for the sponsors on their path to privatization.
The efforts of these groups and their agents are sometimes clumsy and ham-handed, but in so being they reveal the true nature of what they are up to. For example, Skandera just recently overruled the N.M. Public Education Commission’s (PEC) decision to not renew the credentials of three charter schools that utterly failed to meet required academic standards. To ensure she has legal cover for her actions, Skandera’s Public Education Department (PED) has now hired Patricia Matthews, who comes from the staff of a law firm that provides legal services to charter schools.
The event was characterized by a member of the PEC as, “…hiring a fox to guard the hen house.” (http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/switch.php?str=Fox+In+The+Henhouse%3F&imageField.x=5&imageField.y=10&control=gsearch.c&c=articles)
Skandera also tailored the qualifications for a position within her department so she could hire the wife of the governor’s right-hand man. These antics are, to put it into the campaign rhetoric of our current governor, “crony” hiring. So much for promised reform on that score.
Foot soldiers for the financially powerful
Why so blatant? Why the arrogance? Perhaps it arises from a sense of hubris gained by knowing you have the backing of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice that wants to become even more wealthy, and you can help.
Being a foot-soldier for the financially powerful has been known to confer delusions of elevated status to certain individuals. To get the picture, one has only to listen to Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who is doing his best to cut funding for public education at all levels in his state and disenfranchising teachers’ unions, speaking to someone he thought was one of the Koch brothers in this audio recording (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBnSv3a6Nh4)
It is also worth noting that Governor Martinez’s campaign reports (http://www.nmpolitics.net/index/2010/11/martinez-wins-governor%E2%80%99s-race-tv-stations-say/) show that she took $10,000 directly from Koch Industries and $1.3 million from the Republican Governors’ Association. The RGA, for its part, took in at least $1 million from the Koch brothers and donated more than a million to the Republican Party of New Mexico (http://www.clearlynewmexico.com)which heavily aided Martinez’s campaign.
The Koch brothers are businessmen—they expect a return on their investments, and you can rest assured they’ll have business in the Land of Enchantment.
Here is the agenda
Why do I object so strenuously and so strongly to all of the above? I do so because the industrialized education model being pursued by activists such as Skandera and her backers is an endless cycle of memorizing and regurgitating— no critical thinking, no creativity and, above all, no challenging of conventional wisdom or authority. The kind of training proposed by these people is not education— technically, it is operant conditioning (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning).
Bill Gates, who invests heavily in this kind of educational reform through his own “foundation,” once told an interviewer that any form of teaching and learning that could not be measured is useless. When was the last time you measured a beautiful sunset? How would you quantify the beauty of a Mahler symphony? Human beings have hearts and minds, Mr. Gates, not CPUs.
Conditioning of this kind is a dead end from which there is no exit. A better conception of the future will be impossible, because not only would the majority of children be unable to imagine such, they also wouldn’t know how to measure it. Children so conditioned would be left with no sense of authenticity or agency to shape their lives beyond low-paying, low-skill, treadmill jobs. Their lives and imaginations would be impoverished and, consequently, so too would be the world in which they would have to live.
People cannot have a better life or fashion a better world if they cannot imagine it, if they cannot imagine themselves creating it. Destroy imagination and you destroy tomorrow.
If people want more for their own children, and if people who have no children want more for themselves, they must come to understand that today’s children will shape everyone’s future. We must all see our investment in public education today as an investment in our own futures, an investment in a civilized social contract, in a creative and thriving society.
The moral of Fritz Lang’s film “Metropolis” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolis_%28film%29) is that between head and hands there must be a heart. It is a heartless world imagined by those such as Skandera and her sponsors, those who would privatize and industrialize public education.
Emanuele Corso has been a New Mexico resident for over 30 years. Prior to that he taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, where he received his doctorate in education policy studies. He taught “Schools and Society” and “School Reform” to graduates and undergraduates. He holds two master’s degrees and a bachelor’s in mathematics. He is currently working on a book, Belief Systems and the Social Contract, which he started when he was teaching at Wisconsin.
This article originally appeared on http:// www.NMPolitics.net.
When I was little I looked forward to the day I’d go to school. I would watch my brothers and sisters get on the school bus and wished and wished that I could go too. When I finally got my chance, I ate chaquegue (yellow cornmeal mush) sprinkled with sugar and a dab of oleo. I wore hand-me-down clothes and took a paper bag lunch with a tortilla and fried potatoes or a jar of beans. My older sister took my hand and led me to the school, registered me and left me to fend for myself while she ran off to the playground. I was placed in Mrs. Wade’s class. My family was big so I wasn’t uncomfortable around the kids, nor was I afraid, but I was shy. I gave Mrs. Wade my blanket for nap-time, we were read to, and soon it was recess time. I played jacks and tag and swung on the monkey bars. The bell rang and I went in to class and looked forward to seeing my teacher. I liked the kids and my teacher, and I loved the smell of fresh-baked bread wafting from the school kitchen down the hall to my room. Life was good.
I felt no pressure. This was 1959! We learned to read and write and sing and create art. I read about Dick and Jane and Spot. I learned to add and subtract and enjoyed school. I was called a “chatterbox” and had to sit in the hall every once in a while for whispering and giggling in class because I was just happy to be there.
My teachers taught me to read and do math, and I daydreamed about other countries I’d learned about. We took big tests once a year and received support if we needed it. I wasn’t taught to be a conformist. I was asked to think critically and to be creative. I wasn’t brilliant, but I was capable.
Now it’s 2011, and after more than 30 years in the education field, both as a classroom teacher and as a union president, I lament those days because the positive experiences I had in school have gone by the wayside. The amount of pressure to “perform well’ on daily tests is overwhelming. The opportunity for children to think abstractly or work creatively has been hampered by the focus on testing and rote memorization. Teachers are stressed and suffer from low morale. And the effort by right-wing “reformists” to create a culture of learners that are educated “just enough” to answer trivia questions leaves children unable to think critically or creatively.
We are filled with rhetoric about how other countries are outperforming our students, but those same people neglect to share that in many countries the access to a free and public education is hard to come by, and the kids that do have access are usually from families that are socially and financially capable. Clearly, in a perfect world, public education would be accessible and paid for so that all children could attend, regardless of whether the family has the money to pay. Everyone knows that when a child has neither basic skills nor the ability to reason and think creatively, then we are essentially robbing them of the opportunity to become productive and socially minded citizens in our society.
In the United States “only the public schools are legally required to accept and retain all students, no matter their race, no matter their religion, no matter their educational attainment, social class, family income, special needs, or personal characteristics. Only the public schools must guarantee that—within a legally enforceable range— the amount spent on each student will be equal from school to school within communities and across the state where those students reside.”
However, do public schools have to be equally poor, as in New Mexico? The demand for equitable funding for our public schools has not been met with the same vigor as the demand for a “Borg-like” student body. In order for public education to survive, we must all take a hard look at what is working and what isn’t and have the courage to demand that our schools be funded adequately, that we stop demonizing and vilifying the teaching profession and that we focus on the real education of our children. I believe that creating an environment that is safe and healthy and productive is an important responsibility for grown-ups. We have to recognize that “resistance is NOT futile.” By the way, I’m still a chatterbox.
Christine Trujillo is AFT NM State President and National AFT Vice President. She may be reached at [email protected]
Jerry Ortiz y Pino
For our first 200 years it was very clear to Americans that public education should not be allowed to be fair game for corporations. At first education was considered a task for religious or humanitarian organizations, and our nation’s first schools taught citizenship and morality along with reading and writing.
Then, when the waves of immigrants entering the U.S. threatened to overwhelm the ability of the churches and settlement houses to educate them, the notion of “public” (i.e., governmentally-sponsored) education, was accepted. Yet the function of the school as the civilizer, the preparer of the next generation of citizens, continued unquestioned.
Our public schools evolved over time into a powerful force for social stability in this country. Where once the notion of the village “commons” had meant shared grazing and hunting lands open to all, by the 1900s it was primarily our schools which were looked to as the social and economic “commons,” the place where communities were strengthened and shaped.
The historic separation of school and marketplace was not and is not accidental or simply coincidence. The role of preparing our young people for responsible life in a participatory democracy was consciously viewed as way too important and delicate a task to turn over to merchants and commercial interests. After all, their motives would likely be rooted in either extracting immediate profit (squeezing tax dollars out of the system, thereby shorting the students) or in using access to young minds and hearts to indoctrinate “consumers” rather than citizens, “a labor force” rather than thinkers and creators.
This resistance to turning public education into just another profit center in some corporation’s annual report seemed so self-evident that when the counter-attack from the propagandists for Big Education began in earnest about 20 years ago it was hard to take them seriously. That was a huge mistake, but not one that is too late to rectify.
At first the counter-attack took the form of geeks bearing gifts: free television or Internet equipment for classrooms…just let us use it to brainwash the kids for a few minutes a day with our message about our “products.” (And with the more insidious meta-message about how to view themselves: not as future citizens prepared to think critically about public policy but as mere consumers, purchasers of whatever frou-frou or gee-gaw we choose to dangle before them.)
Then, with its foot in the door, Big Business in Education upped the ante. The ground had been prepared throughout the Reagan years with a constant drumming about “free enterprise” (meaning in this context “unregulated enterprise”) being not just part of the American mosaic, but actually being the point of that mosaic, as if making a buck were the very rationale for America’s existence, its highest achievement.
As that re-writing of the national history grew to be accepted non-critically by an ever-wider audience, through sheer dint of repetition, mouthed over and over by radio and television pundits and right-wing academics financed by the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, it actually took on the veneer of not just respectability, but of (incredibly) morality. “Greed is good,” we were told in a thousand different settings. Ergo, we should foster greed; we should reward greed; we should educate our children in greed.
So we weren’t automatically repulsed when Big Business in Education, moving swiftly to capitalize on the ground-breaking that had softened us up during the ‘80s, began its frontal assault on public education, even when that assault seemed directed primarily at the fact that our education was public, was part of the commons, was the shaper of our social persona.
First, they called into question its successes. This wasn’t hard to do when there are so many ways to measure educational success and so many different school districts around the country. Scare stories began to appear with metronomic regularity, first in the right-wing press, then in the mainstream: “Is public education failing?”
Then they called into question the skills/motives/dedication (and even the unnecessarily high salaries!) of public school teachers. “Are we getting what we pay for in public school teachers?” Big Business in Education asked, pointing the finger of blame straight at unionized teachers.
This was an easier target than it should have been. But at precisely that point in history, when teachers unions were succeeding at last in getting salaries for educators raised to living wage levels, many other Americans were finding their own wages or benefits whittled …if not eliminated. It was a relatively easy population to manipulate.
Finally, Big Business dropped the other shoe: “Look,” they proclaimed, “We have the cure. Let us run the schools. We’ll do a good job because we are motivated by greed. We’ll run schools like a business; we’ll get results, we’ll weed-out non-performing teachers and we’ll save you money.”
This is the framework in which our governor’s current infatuation with “school reform” needs to be viewed. Each point in her reform agenda should be examined skeptically to determine whether it erodes the concept of public schools or strengthens it; whether it promotes unnecessary and dangerous “privatization” of education or prevents it.
The work of preparing our next generation of community leaders is too crucial to risk turning it over to profit-motivated corporations. We desperately need business leaders to reform America’s business sector—it ought to be challenge enough to restore profitability to American enterprise. Keep your hands off public schools and permit them to function as they have historically: as the core of our commons, that part of our society we all share in, benefit from and support.
Jerry Ortiz y Pino is a New Mexico state senator (Dist. 12, Albuquerque, Dem.). A former social worker, he has been credited with starting several charter schools in New Mexico.
Early Educators United
We all know the challenges and statistics that reflect our state’s current economy and lack of good jobs. One in three children in New Mexico ages birth to 5 years old lives in poverty, and the majority of New Mexico’s children live in low-income households. Our economy does not bode well for a successful education system; however, one investment could help turn all these statistics around and make decades of difference for New Mexican families and the future of our economic and educational system.
Dozens of organizations have come out in support of the Permanent School Fund Constitutional Amendment—a resolution that would give voters the choice to invest in early childhood education through the Permanent School Fund without raising taxes. Looking at the other options being floated by legislators, this Constitutional Amendment—sponsored by Democratic Senator Cynthia Nava—is the only politically viable, adequate and reliable funding source to invest in our kids, small businesses and communities. A similar measure to invest in education through a Permanent School Fund is being proposed by a Republican lawmaker in Texas.
Investing in early childhood education has been proven time and time again to be one of the single most effective investments our country can make in the economy, one that would create jobs and advance our educational system. The “Perry Preschool Study,” “Abecedarian Project,” and the “Chicago Longitudinal Study” are just a few studies to name which document this.
For our kids, receiving a quality early childhood education means arriving in kindergarten ready to continue to learn from kindergarten through 12th grade. Children have an 80 percent greater likelihood of graduating from high school if they had an early childhood education. Why? For example, the mentioned studies show that by the age of 3 the vocabulary gap between children who acquired an early education versus those who did not can triple. This may seem to be a small gap considering the age of the child ; there are so many years the child has to make that up, one might say. However, positive interaction between young children and consistent adult caregivers with whom they have secure attachments, including parents and teachers, are fundamental to promoting healthy brain development and preventing “over-pruning,” or loss, of brain synapses. The relationships children form with their caregivers during early childhood are vital to their physical, emotional, social and intellectual development. Early childhood education has proven substantial long-term benefits.
These long-term benefits affect everything from the individual to state budgets and economies. The Perry-Scope preschool model developed in the 1960s demonstrated that increased high school graduation rates, higher IQ, lower unemployment, greater earning power and reduced crime are among the many long-term benefits of high quality early childhood programs. And a recent study demonstrated that early education helps children develop self-control, which in addition to aiding them during their K-12 academic education, increases the likelihood that they will make healthy lifestyle and nutrition choices as adults. Self-control learned in early childhood learning environments has a direct long-term impact on reducing adult criminal activity and “adolescent mistakes” that lead to “poor health, less wealth, and criminal conviction.” If you’re tired of studies, ask a Kindergarten educator.
“At the beginning of every year, I can tell through the children’s interactions which child received an early education,” said Stephanie Debellis a Kindergarten teacher at Albuquerque Public Schools. “When a child receives an early education, they come ready to learn. There’s no replacement to a quality early education for Kindergarten preparedness.”
How do we ensure our kids and parents have access to high quality early childhood education?
Today a huge section of our population cannot afford an early childhood education for their kids. When the eligibility for parents in New Mexico was cut from 200 percent of the federal poverty line to 100 percent in January of 2010, single parents working full-time minimum wage jobs were no longer eligible. Though Gov. Martinez added 1300 more kids to the rolls of early childhood education, more than 5,500 children that we know of are still going without an early education. Like working families in our state, private early learning center owners are barely keeping their heads above water.
Early learning centers, in addition to losing thousands of kids due to the eligibility cuts, have also been working with a 4 percent cut to the reimbursement rate for the last year until this month. A recent study by OLÉ Working Parents Association and Early Educators United demonstrates that the average center that has 90 percent of their kids with a state subsidy has lost on average over $77,414 a year. In addition, “It is important to note that the current [Children Youth and Family Department’s] weighted monthly average reimbursement rate is on average $104.74 below the average monthly market rate charged by child development centers, according to the most recent market survey” done by CYFD. Because of this, over 10 percent of early learning centers have closed in the last year.
In addition to this, professional development opportunities through both CYFD and the Public Education Department for the more than 25,000 early educators have been drastically cut.
The Permanent School Fund Constitutional Amendment would give voters the opportunity to invest in early childhood education through the Permanent School Fund without raising taxes. The Permanent School Fund, part of the Land Grant Permanent Fund, is valued at over $15 billion. Every year the fund receives royalties, mostly from the sale and leasing of land. If voters approved the constitutional amendment, roughly $150 million would be dedicated to our kids’ early education. These funds, as additional dollars, would be enough to expand eligibility, create thousands of good jobs for early childhood educators, support the hundreds of small business owners in early learning and ultimately improve the education of our children and the future of our state’s economy. And yes, do it without raising taxes and without risking the principal of our education fund. If our governor and legislators are truly in support of creating good jobs and supporting quality education, they should pass the resolution on the first day of the legislative session in January. Our kids and economy can’t wait another year.
Early Educators United is the fastest growing membership-driven organization of early childhood educators. EEU is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and works in partnership with center owners and working parents to win quality, affordable and accessible early childhood education for all New Mexican children.
We should measure what we value, not the other way around. All too often in education, we value what is easy to measure, but overlook elements that are essential for effective practice. If we value outcomes for our students, such as the ability to understand essential concepts, work in groups, think critically and solve problems, we must measure those abilities.
If we value those attributes in student learning, then we must—in fact, we are obligated to—value the same qualities in teaching. A teacher evaluation system that includes an over-reliance on standardized measures undervalues, to the point of ignoring, the exact outcomes we need for our students and must value in our teachers.
All too often teachers and their unions are characterized as being against reform. We are not against reform; we are against slogan reform. Slogans like “prioritizing student academic gains” and “recruiting, recognizing and retaining ‘rock star’ teachers,” translate into shallow reforms that result in an emphasis on superficial teaching and learning. More than just being a distraction, slogan reforms do harm to students.
It is clear that we are against Gov. Martinez’s proposed reform of the teacher evaluation system and why it is being advanced. If the governor is successful with her proposed evaluation scheme, the worst outcomes of this ill-conceived, revamped teacher evaluation system will happen:
- Increasing reliance on inadequate measures of student learning.
- Creating perverse incentives that focus on the wrong things.
- Entrenching an educational system that runs contrary to a focus on deep learning, which is the intent of the Common Core Standards, and which NM has adopted.
- Maintaining a system that creates judgments based on scarce evidence, and which never really gives teachers meaningful feedback.
- “Effective” teaching will be based on just teaching to a bad test.
Our hymn in this fight is “With Us, Not To Us.” We know our evaluation system needs reform. However, if this administration succeeds in its attempts to revamp our evaluation system without the experience and wisdom of the practitioners, teaching will not improve and student learning will not advance. We must not replace one failed system with another failed system.
This union has a better way. We know that evaluation serves multiple purposes, such as:
- Improving the overall quality of the teacher workforce by identifying and building upon individual and collective teacher strengths, and by improving instruction and other teacher practices to improve student learning.
- Identifying exemplary teachers.
- Identifying ineffective teachers and developing a system of support to remediate their skills.
- Ensuring fair and valid employment decisions.
- Confirming what teachers are doing well.
There is no evidence that teachers are motivated to “improve” if they are evaluated or compensated using test scores. There is ample evidence that the over-reliance on standardized tests has many unintended consequences, such as:
- Excessive test preparation and a narrow curriculum.
- An arbitrary and inordinate focus on students who are on the cusp of “proficiency” as measured by standardized tests, a focus that undercuts the right of all students to a well-rounded, content-rich curriculum that encourages them to develop critical thinking skills.
Creating a system that includes appropriate measures of student learning takes real thought and time to develop them and to learn how to implement them appropriately. When policymakers are unwilling to put in that time and effort, the impact on learning is disastrous.
When contrived and unproven reforms like “merit pay” are added to a flawed testing and evaluation system, the impact is worse. Let me set the record straight here. The Albuquerque Journal gave me “credit” for changing my stance on merit pay. They grossly misrepresented my work with APS. I have never changed my beliefs. I do not now think, nor have I ever thought, that standardized testing should be used in evaluation/compensation systems. What they should have given me credit for is working with APS leadership to ensure that the multiple measures they research and pilot in the School Improvement Grant (SIG) include measures that are valid and acceptable—not measures that we know are harmful.
To those who think teachers’ unions are against reform, think again. We have been working long and hard at the national level and right here in New Mexico on better ways to evaluate teachers. Evaluation of the complex task of teaching will take well thought-out, multiple measures. We know what those measures should be. Now is the time for us to stand together to educate the rest of those whose knowledge comes from slogan reform. Our request—our conviction—is With Us, Not To Us. We stand ready to be partners in real reform.
Ellen Bernstein, NBCT, Ed.D., is President, Albuquerque Teachers Federation.
“When it comes to K-through-12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.” – Rupert Murdoch
The privatization of education in the United States is essential to the plutocratic and global neo-liberal project. After all, the wealthy class can only remain in power if the remaining 99.9 percent of the population believes in the legitimacy of the capitalist model, and also believes that there is a hope of moving up into the ranks of the wealthy one day. So how to manipulate the population into believing such incredible fairytales? Education. Not a liberal, diverse, critical-analysis, critical-thinking education, but a market-driven, business-model, performance-based education.
The goal of privatization is two-fold: 1) create a drone-like, low-wage, work force that has been educated with business-like values, and 2) transfer billions of taxpayer dollars from the public to the private sector.
This privatization project has been in the works for decades, through vouchers and No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and now The Race To The Top Program (RTT) and promotion of charter schools by the current administration and the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Privatization of education is the current issue du jour of the wealthiest movers and shakers, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdoch.
In 1995 Milton Friedman promoted the school voucher system as a necessary step in the move from public to market-driven, privatized education. Within the idea of the United States needing to compete in a globalized, technologically-driven market, Friedman at least determined that it would not be to our benefit to have a large, under-educated under-class. But the capitalist plutocracy does need a large under-class specifically educated to meet its ends, and its leaders all piled on to Friedman’s voucher idea.
While school vouchers are not considered to violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris 2002) and are used in a few states, they have mixed support. For example, critics in Indiana point out that 70 percent of the school vouchers are currently being used in Catholic schools. And while conservatives and House Majority Leader Boehner would like to revive the program nationwide, Congress and the administration do not support it. But no worries, the No Child Left Behind Act and charter schools have already surpassed vouchers as a more complete privatization scheme.
Those who are dismayed over the No Child Left Behind Act signed by G. W. Bush in 2002 forget that it passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, sponsored by Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Congressmen George Miller (D-CA) and John Boehner (R-OH). Before NCLB, Bill Clinton also emphasized the role of standards and testing in education. Good intentions or not, bipartisan or not, the Act certainly fulfills the goal of creating a non-critical-thinking workforce, and assists in the transfer of wealth from the public to the private sector.
It might seem that NCLB was meant to address the real problems facing our educational system. But in actuality it creates the environment for widespread failure, quantifies the failure with unmeetable adequate yearly progress (AYP) and standardized testing thresholds, and then designates schools as failures that require sanctions—conditions ripe for corporate takeover. Imagine telling parents that their students are failing because their school is failing; those parents are certainly going to want a better education for their students, and if a voucher or charter school program is going to “fix the problem,” they are going to support that program.
NCLB is a boon for the large conglomerates and smaller companies that provide testing materials to school districts. This multi-billion dollar industry is dominated by large conglomerates and smaller corporations (Pearson, Riverside, CTB McGraw-Hill, Measured Progress, Questar Assessment, Northwest Evaluation, and Data Recognition Corp) who not only provide testing materials, but books, software and other preparation materials. Test providers also assist in question development and the development of curriculum to prepare for the NCLB test. Here we see direct integration of corporations deciding what our children will learn, and how.
One of the newest transfers of wealth to the private world is the $2-billion allocation of funds for free supplemental services for children who meet the criteria—tutoring services. The companies authorized to provide these services can be large corporations, but the money also attracts providers who run their businesses like a commission-only pyramid scheme. And parents have to somehow know how to choose the best tutor for their child when they go to meetings pitched by the company’s sales person. Remember, taxpayers are funding all this.
Charter schools are the current panacea to all of education’s ills—promoted by the Race to the Top Program, the continuation of NCLB, the film Waiting for Superman, conservative think tanks, liberal politicians, and especially by the philanthropies of the Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, the Walton Family Foundation, The Broad Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.
What was once a noble potential solution to underperforming schools, charter schools are now the primary way to inculcate privatization and the business model of education into schools— funded by taxpayers and private donations. The number of charter schools has skyrocketed as replacements for “failing” public schools, and they are often founded and managed by private enterprise and large conglomerates. Most states have charter school policies, and most do not have to follow the “onerous” regulations of a “regular” public school.
What this means for the management of the charter school is that they are not required to teach every student—including those who may not perform well on standardized tests. Like any business, you can provide better results to your customers (parents and community members) when you choose what will be tested, how it will be tested, who will do the testing, and who will be tested.
As Naomi Klein explained in The Shock Doctrine, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the perfect opportunity for the right-wing think tanks to launch Milton Friedman’s privatization plans. The reform of the public schools could begin with the blank slate of the destroyed New Orleans school system, and the administration of George W. Bush quickly funded the conversion into charter schools. Compared to the agonizingly slow pace of reconstruction of the rest of the city, the “auctioning off” of New Orleans’ school system was quick and precise. The teacher’s union was decimated and 4700 unionized teachers were fired.
Of course, it’s true that education is a mess right now—that our students are falling far behind other countries in essential knowledge, especially in math and science required to keep us competitive in the global economy—and maybe standards and accountability are not a bad thing. Nod your head if you are agreeing with these statements right now, because that is exactly the narrative that is being pushed into the American psyche. Years of being told that it’s the parents’ fault, it’s the teacher’s fault, in the union’s fault—we certainly need to “fix” education—aren’t we all starting to agree with this? We have just fallen into the plutocratic rabbit hole.
So what is the solution? Primarily we need to stop allowing the narrative to be co-opted by the corporatists. Much of the nation, on the right and on the left, has bought in to the idea of fault— parents, teachers, unions, the government, etc. Or people believe that either adding or subtracting money is the solution. “School choice” is supposed to provide the solution to the failures. If only more data were gathered, we would be able to “assess” the progress of students.
It is time for progressives to take back the narrative of education.
We need education to be part of the discussion about social justice, alleviation of poverty and creating a more equitable society. The culture around education needs to change: A free and equal education is a human right, not subject to the vagaries of economics or political agendas. Educators need to have high status in this country. You should be proud of your role as a teacher, and the brightest should want to be educators, and they should be paid appropriately for their important role. Education should not be about creating a drone-like workforce but about creating a world citizen who understands through liberal arts, humanities, music, art, history, social sciences—and yes math and science—that the world is a wide and diverse place in need of new ideas, inclusiveness and social justice.
Kathy Meyer teaches political science at Central New Mexico Community College.
Policymakers, community leaders and educators have spent decades debating how best to improve New Mexico’s public school system. Although we have seen great results, the debate rages on and causes division. We become critical, or cynical, of one another when what we truly need is to work together.
It is time to focus on solutions. School funding, as a percentage of state spending, student achievement and the public’s satisfaction with the state’s public schools, are all down. The general public applauds educators and is demanding that community leaders listen and support a plan for educators to help all our students become lifelong learners.
A renewed focus along with the necessary resources is needed now to support everything from early childhood education, nutrition and health programs to family support and income programs. Not only is a good education one of the foundations for a healthy, happy childhood and success later in life, a good education is also dependent upon a healthy, happy childhood. Everything is connected.
Children will not learn if they are hungry, distracted or withdrawn because of problems at home or are simply not in school because they are sick. And one of the keys to our long-term fight against hunger, poverty and domestic violence in New Mexico is to ensure that our children—tomorrow’s adults—are better educated.
It is not easy to spend more money on education and social programs in the best of times, but it is especially difficult when the state budget is as tight as it has been for the last four or five years and is likely to be for several more. But while not easy, it is important to do so because this is precisely the time when New Mexicans need a better education, more financial support and more robust social assistance.
While early childhood education is critical, we must also emphasize secondary and post-secondary education, recognizing the twin goals of our schools: 1) to instill a lifelong desire to learn and appreciate life’s diversity, and 2) to prepare students for the hard task of finding, keeping and excelling at jobs that pay the bills.
Specifically, we must:
Support public health efforts so that every child starts school healthy and stays healthy throughout the child’s school years;
Support after-school and summer programs so that students stay interested in school and make wise choices to stay in school;
Implement new strategies for early childhood reading programs, like hiring reading coaches, and support early intervention programs for students who need assistance;
Invest in post-secondary educational academic and training programs to encourage and prepare young New Mexicans to enter the honorable profession of teaching and continue to make teachers’ compensation competitive for those who make that commitment;
Strengthen curriculum, align education with employment trends and improve our vocational educational system to attract manufacturing;
Ensure that technology reaches all corners of the state so that all students can access the world of research, discovery and current information;
Evaluate the educational offerings in all our communities and work to correlate and maximize educational opportunities for all students;
Increase funding for special education programs to ensure that all students have a chance to succeed;
Boost student post-secondary support services, such as career education, guidance, counseling, life-skills building and tutoring, so that students have the tools to contribute to society in an effective way and provide for their families; and
Strengthen concurrent enrollment and dual-credit programs to allow students who enter college to save money by enrolling as upperclassmen, and strengthen vocational education so that those who do not enter college can enter the workforce better prepared.
The social and economic vitality and viability of our entire state depend on effective strategies that keep high-quality educational opportunities available in rural, suburban and urban communities.
New Mexico has a unique opportunity during the 2012 legislative session to unite and to improve education
State Sen. Pete Campos (Dem.) represents Dist. 8, Las Vegas.
Partnerships between schools and for-profit companies are a growing trend in cash-strapped school districts but may cause harm to schoolchildren, according to new research by an international team of scholars.
The potential damage goes beyond the immediate health threat posed by the school-based marketing to children of soft drinks and other junk foods. Corporate commercializing activities in schools undermine the teaching of critical thinking skills essential to a good education, according to Alex Molnar and co-authors Faith Boninger and Joseph Fogarty.
The report, The Educational Cost of Schoolhouse Commercialism: The Fourteenth Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercializing Trends: 2010-2011, was released earlier this month by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Lead author Molnar, a research professor at CU Boulder and publishing director at the NEPC, has studied and written about commercialism in U.S. schools for nearly two decades and is one of the nation’s top experts on the subject. Faith Boninger is an NEPC research associate with an academic background in psychology, and has researched this topic over the past five years. Joseph Fogarty, a school principal in County Sligo, Ireland, also has written extensively on commercialization trends.
The new report on schoolhouse commercializing trends considers how commercializing activities in schools directly and indirectly undermine the quality of the education children receive. Molnar, Boninger, and Fogarty observe that corporate commercialism in schools directly harms children by, for example, marketing candy and soft drinks on school premises and thus effectively undermining the schools’ nutrition curriculum and children’s learning about healthy eating.
Another harm is due to the shifting of school time toward activities promoted by commercial sponsors. Such business-sponsored activities in recent years include product demonstrations and contests like the “ASA School Tour.” The pretext for the tour is to show children that it’s cool to be tobacco-free, but when the Tour arrives at a local high school, classes are suspended for a mandatory assembly that includes an action sports show and exposure to sponsors’ branding, with on-site promotions and sampling. When Microsoft sponsored the tour, for example, new Xbox games were a featured attraction.
Finally, a less obvious but significant educational harm associated with school commercialism involves the threat posed to critical thinking. Research shows, Molnar and colleagues write, that critical thinking skills are best fostered in an environment where students are encouraged “to ask questions, to think about their thought processes and thus develop habits of mind that enable them to transfer the critical thinking skills they learn in class to other, unrelated, situations.” Yet, as they point out, “…it is never in a sponsor’s interest for children to learn to identify and evaluate its points of view and biases, to consider alternative points of view, or to generate and consider alternative solutions to problems.”
“Corporate sponsors want their story to be accepted uncritically,” Molnar says.
The report references the coal industry’s collaboration with children’s book publisher Scholastic Inc.. Scholastic produced materials for the American Coal Foundation’s “The United States of Energy” 4th grade curriculum. Classroom materials in this program were written to emphasize many states’ use and production of coal.
This coal curriculum caught the attention of a coalition of advocacy groups in the spring of 2011 and led to a campaign that culminated in Scholastic’s July decision to halt distribution of the coal-related materials and to reduce its production and promotion of other sponsored content. Yet Scholastic Inschool, the publisher’s marketing arm for corporate clients, has launched numerous in-school marketing campaigns in recent years for companies such as Brita water filters, Disney and Nestlé.
Similarly, energy companies such as Chevron and Shell Oil (another Scholastic Inschool client) have spent heavily on classroom materials. Shell’s sponsored school curriculum describes the multi-national corporation as a leader in alternative energy rather than as chiefly a petroleum company.
“These materials are designed to place a halo over the sponsoring company, not to promote a critical understanding of complex issues,” said Molnar.
After reviewing these and other corporate-sponsored materials, the authors conclude that “Instead of promoting … higher-level thinking, sponsors promote their message and encourage activities” that may appear to forward children’s education, but never risk “touching on anything that might lead to thinking inconsistent with that message.”
Molnar, Boninger, and Fogarty point out: “This is the natural, unsurprising course of action for a corporation. It does not, however, promote the intellectual development of students or serve the broader interests of society.”
The authors argue that corporations’ interest is the profit motive, not educating children or promoting the general welfare. They conclude: “Corporate involvement with schools necessarily bends what students learn, how they learn, and the nature of the school and classroom environment in a direction that favors the corporate bottom line. These corporations attempt to shape the habits of mind that children internalize and carry with them, to the detriment of us all.”
The Educational Cost of Schoolhouse Commercialism: The Fourteenth Annual report on Schoolhouse Commercializing Trends: 2010-2011, by Alex Molnar, Faith Boninger, and Joseph Fogarty, can be found on the web at:
Early educators celebrate positive funding news, but program still underfunded
Members of Early Educators United are celebrating the first good news in a series of bad over the last decade. CYFD and Gov. Martinez announced awarding 1300 children state contracts to receive early education through the childcare subsidy and restoring 4 percent to the state subsidy rate that was cut last fall from early learning centers. The waiting list was created on January 1, 2010 and has almost 7000 children currently on it.
“Hopefully, today is the just beginning to getting the eligibility back to 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Right now parents can’t work because they can’t afford a quality center,” reported Victoria of St. Marks in the Valley in Albuquerque.
In the 22 years I’ve been in early education I’ve never seen it this bad. Even with the 4 percent reinstatement, centers will continue to barely keep their head above water,” said Sarah Gallant, owner of Lynns Day Care in Bernalillo.
Even with the reinstatement of the 4 percent, a recent study by the National Women’s Law Center highlights that the state reimburses early education centers with subsidy rates that are about 40 percent below the current market value. The 4 percent cut to subsidy rates occurred in November of 2010; at the time the rate was based on the 2001 market rate study by CYFD.
Lourdes Amaro, owner and director of Blancett’s Little Hands in Silver City said, “This is great news, but the crisis in early education needs more than just nickels and dimes. Without a real, adequate, and permanent funding source our kids will continue to go without the opportunity of a quality early childhood education.”
American Federation of Teachers of New Mexico’s responds to Martinez childcare announcement
Albuquerque – AFT New Mexico congratulates Governor Martinez for taking a step toward affordable and accessible early childhood education. AFT-NM encourages the Governor to support investing in a high quality education system by investing in early education through the royalties of the Permanent School Fund.
Despite the increase in the subsidy rate and child eligibility, the crisis to early learning and our state education system remain. Over 5,000 children remain on the state’s waiting list, and the state’s subsidy rate remains at 2001 levels.
“The state has left early educators and owners of learning centers out-to-pasture. Reinstating the 4 percent cut to subsidy rates and paying for an additional 1300 children to receive a state contract is a good step, but yet too many children and too many education professionals are going without the support they need,” said Christine Trujillo. “It’s just bad business and bad for our state when we let millions of royalties from our Permanent School Fund just go back to the principal instead of being invested in our children and job creation.”
The Permanent funding solution (SJR10) for early childhood education is a resolution that, if passed by the state Legislature, would give voters the choice in the fall of 2012 to fund early childhood education through the annual royalties from the Permanent School Fund. Last year the royalties had a 22.5 percent growth, of which only 5.8 percent was utilized for education.
According to numerous studies, the investment in early childhood education renders a 10 percent gain for every year after the early education of a child for the life of the child through adulthood.
AFT New Mexico members are K-12 educators, university faculty and staff, juvenile justice employees and early childhood educators. Over 24,000 education professionals are represented within the organization.
Report: NM Public Schools Suffered 5 Percent Funding Cut for Current Year
ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico’s public schools are having to do more with less money—5 percent less than they had last year. The drop in funding has led to a 5 percent decline in public education jobs. To exacerbate the issue, student enrollment has increased over the last three years.
These are some of the main conclusions in a report, Funding Public Schools in New Mexico in the Great Recession, released through New Mexico Voices for Children’s Fiscal Policy Project.
“The bottom has dropped out of the state’s public education budget,” said Gerry Bradley, NM Voices’ Research Director and the report’s author. “Even though state funding for public schools has been in decline for several years, it was replaced by increased federal funds via the federal stimulus package of 2009. But that funding is now gone, and lawmakers chose not to make it up by putting any new revenue measures in place,” he added.
One reason that K-12 funding is so precarious in New Mexico is that a much larger percentage of the overall budget comes from general fund revenues than in most states. Almost all other states rely more heavily on property taxes for funding public education.
“Property taxes tend to be ‘sticky’ in a recession,” said Bradley, “meaning the revenue doesn’t decline the way revenue from income and sales taxes does. But about half of our total K-12 education expenditures come out of our general fund budget, which relies very heavily on income and sales taxes.”
The report recommends that, in the absence of greatly increased revenues, the Legislature should raise new revenue next year rather than continue to cut K-12 funding.
The report is available online at: http://www.nmvoices.org.
Bill threatens state’s control over weapon permits
Progress New Mexico, with more than 47,000 active members, is urging senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman to vote against a bill in Congress that would strip New Mexico and other states of the ability to decide who can carry a concealed, loaded gun within their own borders.
H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, would force New Mexico to honor other states’ permits to carry a concealed gun—no matter how lenient those other states’ standards. With this bill, states across the country would be stripped of their ability to decide who can—and more importantly, who can’t—legally carry a hidden, loaded gun inside their borders, the group said.
“People with alcohol abuse problems, dangerous misdemeanor criminals, and even people who haven’t had any firearm training could be granted a concealed gun permit in another state,” said Progress New Mexico Executive Director Pat Davis. “New Mexico would have to allow those people—who wouldn’t have qualified for a permit in New Mexico—to carry a loaded gun here.”
Today, each state also has the right to experiment and make its own decision about whether to accept other states’ permits based on their own public safety needs. Many states have done so, including New Mexico—which also recently decided to terminate a “reciprocity” agreement it had with Utah because that state didn’t meet New Mexico’s safety standards.
If the bill becomes law, New Mexico would no longer be able to make its own decisions about whose permits to recognize. The state would no longer be able to change course based on evidence that permit holders from another state would be putting New Mexico police and communities in danger.
This is a critically important issue for Progress New Mexico,” Davis said. “We challenge our senators to say ‘no’ to the Washington gun lobby and stand up for the right of our state to protect our residents.”
The Senate will likely vote on the bill in the next few weeks.
County Commission approves film support resolution
Several dozen film industry supporters looked on Nov. 8 as the Santa Fe County Commission unanimously approved a resolution “to support film and media industry economic development activities in Santa Fe County as a means to achieve a sustainable local economy and to stimulate local job creation and retention.”
Comm. Virginia Vigil, who sponsored the resolution, said she was disheartened by the recent legislative session and described the benefits of a healthy film industry in New Mexico as “huge,” not only to Santa Fe County but to the entire state. She said the state’s message to Hollywood as well as independent filmmakers and producers should be, “We want you here!”
Jon Hendry, business agent of IATSE Local 480, the film technicians local, spoke to express thanks to the commission for its previous support in getting the new Santa Fe Studios built and described the opening this week of that facility as “a really big deal,” calling it the most beautiful studio he’s ever seen. “You have created hope and opportunity for young people,” he said, adding that one $40 million movie project a year can bring $200 million into the county.
S everal Santa Fe merchants echoed the benefits of the spillover effect in filling lodgings and restaurants, and enabling workers to spend more in the community on needs such as health care that might otherwise be deferred.
Comm. Robert Anaya asked supporters, “What do we need to do to prepare for jobs so our communities as a whole can benefit and engage more of their residents?” Hendry and Bernie Sanchez, a Native New Mexican who returned to the state to work in the film business, said education is the key, especially the film-related programs at Santa Fe Community College.
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Attack on African Americans—political revenge?
Is Susana Martinez punishing New Mexico’s entire Black community just to get back at Democratic House Majority Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton?
According to its website, “The African American Performing Arts Center & Exhibit Hall is the nerve center for comprehensive communal activities of research, preservation and nurturing of the intellectual and cultural histories of people of African descent in New Mexico and the Southwest.”
Yet, Governor Susana Martinez line-item vetoed the entire $349,000 appropriation for the center, which just so happens to be named after Sheryl Williams Stapleton, in what appears to be an act of retaliation against the Democratic House Majority Whip, the highest ranking Black legislator in New Mexico.
The center not only puts on cultural programs relevant to the Black community but houses multiple education programs including one designed to identify students needing extra help in reading and math. It is also home to the Sickle Cell Anemia Center. Why put all of these programs at risk by eliminating its funding?
Martinez initially submitted funding for the center at the start of the 2011 legislative session, just as Governor Bill Richardson had in prior years. However, during the legislative session, Williams Stapleton opposed Martinez’s efforts to privatize New Mexico’s public education under the so-called “Florida Model.”
Martinez then appears to have made the political calculation that the best way to harm Williams Stapleton was to punish the entire Black community by attacking the Center that bears her name.
As ISPAC has already shown (http://independentsourcepac.org/), the Public Education Department sought the advice of legal counsel on how to make an “English Only” end run around New Mexico law that allows people pursuing an alternate path to a high school diploma to do so in Spanish and Native American Languages as well as English.
Martinez has been recognized as the national Republican who can bring minorities into the Republican fold. Yet, her actions prove that she is no friend to the minority cultures of New Mexico.
Independent Source PAC
Documents and links referred [above] are viewable and can be downloaded from the Independent Source PAC website: http://independentsourcepac.org/
Bruce M. Berlin
There is no question that our system of government is broken. Anyone who cannot see how badly broken it is, or simply refuses to face the issue, does not really believe in democracy. When public policy is regularly determined by corporations with the huge financial resources to sway Congressional votes in their favor, we no longer have a government of, by and for the people.
While there are many causes that have contributed to the corruption of our democracy, three judicial decisions stand out. First is the birth of the doctrine of “corporate personhood.” In 1886 the U.S. Supreme Court case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad opened the door to the absurd notion that a corporation is a “natural person.” From that point on, the 14th Amendment, enacted to protect the rights of freed slaves, was used routinely to grant corporations constitutional rights formerly granted only to people.
The second major development that has led to the gross distortion of our democracy is the Supreme Court’s 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo that declared money is speech. The Court found that political spending is equivalent to speech, and, therefore, the First Amendment protects one’s right to speak in the form of making financial contributions to candidates or political parties.
Finally, in the 2010 Citizens United case, the Supreme Court held that corporations have a First Amendment right to free speech. The Court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision that corporate political spending is a protected form of speech and, as such, Congress could not place limits on independent corporate spending in elections. Consequently, five justices on the Supreme Court have given corporations the right to spend as much money as they want in order to influence the outcome of elections.
Of course, when corporations like Exxon Mobil and the other oil giants “speak” with their big bucks in order to get their candidates elected to Congress, they expect a return on their investment. Their corporate lobbyists flood the halls of Congress with their self-serving legislative proposals, and our patriotic public servants dutifully respond by providing tax breaks, loopholes and subsidies for these wealthy energy companies. The same symbiotic relationship with our lawmakers produces similar rewards for the pharmaceutical industry, agribusiness and a variety of America’s other major commercial enterprises.
A new study (http://www.ctj.org/corporatetaxdodgers/) by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy confirms just how skewed in favor of corporate America our “democratic process” has become. Under the current tax code, corporations are supposed to pay a basic 35 percent income tax on their corporate profits. Over the last three years, however, the Citizens report documents that top U.S. corporations have actually been paying only 18.5 percent of their profits in federal tax. Consequently, many corporations are now receiving close to a 50 percent discount off their tax bills.
Moreover, the nation’s wealthiest individuals appear to be getting the same tax advantage. Under the tax code, the highest marginal tax rate for individuals is also 35 percent. However, due to tax breaks and loopholes, the country’s top 400 income-earners, mega-millionaires and billionaires, are actually paying taxes at an effective rate of only 18.1 percent.
Institute for Policy Studies researchers earlier this year found that the CEOs at 25 of America’s largest corporations—major firms that range from Boeing to Verizon—took home more in personal compensation than the companies they run paid in federal income tax. These top executives averaged $16.7 million each. At the same time, millions of people were being laid off by corporate America and losing their paychecks.
It is also interesting to note that as corporate power and influence has increased steadily in the last 50 years, corporate tax payments as a percentage of federal expenditures have declined sharply. According to the Citizens for Tax Justice study, in the 1950s corporate taxes paid for about a quarter of federal outlays. In 2010, on the other hand, corporate taxes covered only 6 percent of the federal government’s expenses. While big business and its patrons have reaped more and more of the nation’s benefits, they have paid less and less for them.
The Citizens for Tax Justice study examined 280 of America’s most profitable corporations. These companies made a combined $1.4 trillion in profits in the three years from 2008 to 2010. They could have paid, under the tax code, over $473 billion in federal corporate incomes taxes. But, due to the tax breaks and loopholes provided by our accommodating Congress, they actually paid only $250.8 billion, a tax discount of $222.7 billion over that three-year period. In fact, 78 of these firms paid no federal income tax in at least one of the last three years. Robert McIntyre, the director of Citizens for Tax Justice and the report’s lead author, explained, “This is wasted money that could have gone to protect Medicare, create jobs and cut the deficit.”
Closing corporate tax loopholes, concluded the study by Citizens for Tax Justice, would bring “real benefits” for Americans, everything from “reduced federal budget deficits” to “more resources to improve our roads, bridges, and schools—things that are really important for economic development here in the United States.”
Tragically, our broken government is not able or willing to get the money monkey off its back. The Citizens report is just the latest argument for why the American people must demand that money be removed from politics through mandatory public campaign financing of all elections for federal office. Until that happens, the highest bidders with the most cash will continue to call the shots in Washington, and the American people will continue to have the best government money can buy.
Bruce Berlin is a Santa Fe attorney who has been a political activist most of his life. For ways to help take back America, go to MoveOn.org, DemocracyattheCrossroadsSF.org or moneyoutofpolitics.org .
You can’t talk to me like that boss
I don’t care who you are
If you don’t want to hang your own drywall
don’t push me too far
Lee H. Ervin
Two days after the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, one Amadeo Giannini, then founder of the Bank of Italy, set up a wooden plank between two barrels on a North Beach street and from that desk began lending money to rebuild the city. Giannini, who was to later found the Bank of America, is said to have made loans “on a man’s face and signature.” It is also said that every loan was paid back.
Giannini acquired the cash for the loans by arriving at his bank just before the fire that was devastating downtown San Francisco hit. He sifted through the rubble and located and loaded about $80,000 in coin, gold and securities onto a wagon, covered the same with vegetables (some say it was a garbage truck that concealed the money), and he was in business. Giannini was able to get at his assets because his bank had no vault. Turns out that other banks couldn’t open their vaults even it they wanted to. They had to wait for days. The extreme heat would have caused the cash to incinerate on opening the vault, giving a literal meaning to the phrase “burning through cash.”
Giannini was a maverick in the banking business at the turn of the last century. He wanted to lend money to the working class, not just the wealthy. According to Entrepreneur Magazine (October 10, 2008) “Giannini’s experience in 1906 left him a changed man. “At the time of the fire, I was trying to make money for myself. But the fire cured me of that,” he recalled. He saw how the power of banking could improve people’s lives and made that his life’s mission. He came up with the idea for a statewide system of branch banks that could bring monetary resources to far-flung communities. “By opening branches, I foresaw that we could give better service to everybody,” he explained.
And open branches he did. When he retired as active head of the bank of America in 1945, his bank had become the largest in America. It is safe to say that Bank of America helped millions of individuals and businesses achieve their idea of the American dream.
Giannini was by most all accounts a very good man who built a strong institution founded on the principle of helping people.
Fast forward to the new century. Go past the banks giving out toasters, Ginzu knives and clock radios to entice you to open an account. Zip right on into the 2000s and we find a very different banking climate, or as Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman put it in a recent New York Times column, “They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.”
Banks are largely unregulated in what risks they take with their wildly leveraged depositor cash. Imagine a pro football game without rules. Tom Brady takes the snap in the shotgun, but instead of having to hold off, say, the defensive line of Washington Redskins, Coach Mike Shanahan chooses to rush his entire roster. Fifty-three players charge the quarterback, armed with knives, billy-clubs and assault weapons. Not good for Mr. Brady, and also not good for the game.
When banks fail, we bail them out. Take risks and make profits—the bankers get rich. Take risks and lose the ranch—we give them back their money, and the bankers get rich. Bailing out a boat is a stop-gap measure. After the boat floats again, if the leak is not fixed . . . well, you get the idea.
Bankers love fees. Truly love fees. Consider an average credit card transaction. You spend a $1000 on a gizmo you desperately want and may even need. Or say you pay for a medical procedure with a credit card. The mechanics are the same. First thing that happens is the bank takes 2 percent or $20 of that transaction from the merchant. That’s a swipe fee. Next comes the annual fee you may have to pay for your credit card. Next comes the interest fee if you do not pay off your entire purchase the following month. Interest fees can and do range up to 30 percent. Next, if your payment is late, expect a late-payment fee, which will likely result in an increased interest-rate fee. Lastly, pity the poor fool who sends in a check, which bounces because he or she has not signed up for an insufficient-fund fee. That hapless individual gets charged a late fee, at least one insufficient-fund fee, and of course in all likelihood an increased interest fee.
Bankers love fees, which brings us the Bank of America’s recent decision to charge a $5 per month fee to customers who use the bank’s debit card. Banks used to get a flat fee from the merchant of 63 cents every time a debit card was swiped. Buy a pack of gum or a new iPhone, pay 63 cents. A lawsuit in 2003 resulted in a $3.4 billion settlement to stores and reduced the swipe fee to about 44 cents. Then, recently, the Chris Dodd-sponsored legislation passed in July of 2010 further reduced that amount to an average of 24 cents.
What’s a bank like Bank of America to do? This is fees we are talking about, gosh darn it. Well, Bank of America decided it needed the $5 per month fee.
Never mind that the American Banker Magazine called the move “reckless and foolhardy”, and I might add, out of touch, very poorly timed and reeking of hubris, let’s take a reasoned look. Debit cards have largely replaced the physical writing of checks. Why not? It ‘s easier, it’s quicker, it’s more convenientt for the customer, but to the banks it’s a god-send. According to a Visa study, processing a written check costs banks anywhere from 55 cents to 1.60 per. According the Federal Reserve, the cost for processing a debit transaction is about four cents. The American Banker puts the direct cost at less than a penny. Taking the high end of a four-penny cost per transaction, the bank makes 20 cents every time and each time one of its 57 million customers swipes a debit card. If every customer swipes the card once a day that’s a cool $11.4 million profit. Eleven-point-four million in profit in 24 hours for a fee. At all banks in the U.S., there were 38 billion debit card transactions each year.
Of course, you don’t have to pay the fee if you keep a mere $20,000 on hand at the bank or if you have a mortgage account with the bank. The mortgage provision may have been added to help the 1.3 million customers of Bank Of America who are presently behind on their loan payments, in part due to Bank of America’s brainless buyout of Countrywide mortgage, but that is another story, as is the fact that Bank of America’s stock has plunged from almost $60 per share five years ago to about six bucks today. Mr. Giannini, who founded a bank that did this country so much good, would not be proud of this rascal fee. Neither would he be proud of this bank. Present CEO Brian Moynihan can’t be proud of this money-grubbing scheme either, but he’s not paid to be proud, he’s not paid to help fellow Americans.
It is amusing, is it not, that there is a petition signed by over 200,000 demanding the bank rescind the fee. Screw the petition. What’s wrong with us? Change banks.
Northern New Mexico has at least one great community-oriented bank, Los Alamos National, and more than a few fine credit unions. These are institutions who care about and actually put money into the community. We may not be able to change the systemic corruption overnight in Congress, we might not be able to get meaningful banking reform to regulate these crooks this year or next, but we can change banks. We can send a message. We can take action. We can change banks. ‘Cause if we can’t, if we don’t, it is not going to end well.
[Editor’s note: Bowing to tremendous public pressure and in no small part, the Occupy Wall Street movement, Bank of America announced on Nov. 1 it was rescinding its planned $5 monthly fee for debit card use. Still, up to 650,000 Americans, according some reports, moved their accounts from big banks to local banks and savings and loans by Nov. 5, the date designated as Move Your Money Day by grassroots activists across the country.]
The Pale King
By David Foster Wallace
548 pages. Little, Brown & Company.
Book Review by Claire Ayraud
The Pale King is a final novel, published posthumously by The David Foster Wallace Literary Trust, with the help of his widow, Bonnie Nadell. In the editor’s notes by Michael Pietsch, it is recounted how this novel was put together from “hundreds of notes, observations and larger ideas. Some of these asides suggest where the plot of the novel might have headed. Others provide…character development. Contradictions and complications abound among them.”
This novel was never finished or edited while Wallace was still alive, and so no one knows what he intended the completed novel to be. It is simply a work in progress, and the reader must slog through endless details and minutia that the author may not have intended to reach an audience.
I found myself skipping over large chunks of endlessly boring details of IRS rules; however, it appears to be the whole point of this novel: where the mind goes when confronted with boredom, fluorescent lighting and confounding rules that contradict themselves in a hypocritical hierarchical setting.
Who would want to read about this? Only David Foster Wallace could ever have made a novel from this material. His observations of people and situations are keen and funny, capturing the constant chaos of his little universe. Wallace actually worked for the IRS at a point in his life where he was adrift, a young man with no direction, and so he thought, “Why not?”, only to discover many reasons why not. But material for a novel was the end result, and so this period of his life became the “why to” of his endeavor.
David Foster Wallace was born in Ithaca, N.Y. in 1962 and raised in Illinois, where he was a regionally ranked tennis player. His BA was in philosophy and English from Amherst Collage, where he wrote his first novel The Broom of the System as his senior English thesis. He received a master of fine arts from the University of Arizona in 1987 and briefly pursued graduate work in philosophy at Harvard University. His second novel, Infinite Jest, was published in 1996. Wallace taught creative writing at several collages and published short story collections. He died in 2008, leaving behind unpublished work, of which The Pale King is a part.
Wallace’s death was the result of a suicide by hanging on Sept. 12, 2008. In an interview with The New York Times, Wallace’s father reported that his son had suffered from depression for more than 20 years. A friend of mine once told me that depression is like falling into a black hole, and there is no light to be seen; no hope glimmers. And yet his novels and short stories are full of life and beauty, even in the ugliness of strip malls and freeways strewn with garbage because of the view from his own mind, a sentient being in an incredibly beautiful universe. So the paradox here is that he could bring light and laughter and beauty to others but not to himself.
The editor who compiled The Pale King brings it all on—all of the messy details and detritus that came out of Wallace’s mind—and so there is no method to the madness; the story line is vague and hard to follow. This is existentialism at its finest with no filter, a stream of consciousness running ragged across a landscape of mankind’s senseless rules, regulations and corporate blandness.
LOCAL AND AREA BOOKS/TALKS/LECTURES/THEATER/CULTURE
To be included in the monthly calendar, please send suitable items of interest to [email protected] by the first of the month of publication.
journeysantafe Nov.- Dec. Program Calendar
Sunday Nov. 20
Travel Bug Books
839 Paseo de Peralta
– FRACCING -NATURAL GAS AND WATER POWER HORROR SHOW-David Bacon in Conversation with Deb Anderson-Who Controls Water, Truth
& Democracy in the Bio Region Dialogues
Sunday Nov. 27
Travel Bug Books
839 Paseo de Peralta
Overview of Who Controls Water in Bio Region Dialogues with David Bacon and guest speakers which may include Joni Arends from CCNS,
Mark Sardella from Local Energy, and others.
Sunday Dec. 4
Travel Big Books
839 Paseo de Peralta
STANLEY CRAWFORD, local author of A Mayordomo: The Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico In Conversation with David Bacon who may be
joined by Estevan Arellano, on the important Issues and politics of the Acequias.
Sunday Dec. 11
Travel Bug Books
839 Paseo de Peralta
WILLIAM DUBUYS continues his conversation on Climate Change in the Bio region and talks and signs copies of hsi new book, A Grteat Aridness: Climate Change
in the Southwest with David Bacon.
Sunday Dec. 18 – DAVID BACON – Overview of all the Water Issues with former guest speakers
Sunday Dec. 25 and Sunday Jan. 1 – CLOSED FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Now through Sunday, Nov. 20
At numerous locations
The Food Cadre of Earth Care is hosting a Food and Winter Coat Drive now through Nov. 20th to benefit the SFPS ADELANTE Program for Homeless Youth. The drive coincides with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. White rice, dry pinto beans, canned fruit, pasta, and peanut butter are especially needed.
The following locations are accepting donations of food and coats from the public: Amy Biehl Community School, Capital High School, the City of Santa Fe Solid Waste department (1142 Siler Rd.), Earth Care, Farmers Market (during Sat. market), Salazar Elementary, Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe Prep, and Tesuque Elementary.
For more information: 505-819-9966 (cell), [email protected]
Thursday, Nov. 17
El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe
1615 Paseo de Peralta #B
¡Celébrate! The Jewish Experience in Spanish-Speaking Countries.
“Voyages to Freedom: 500 Years of Jewish Life in Latin America and the Caribbean.” An exhibit of reproduced text, photographs, and illustrations documenting the
500-year experience of Jews in the context of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Thursday, Nov. 17
The Abiquiu Inn Building
21120, Hwy 84 Abiquiu, NM
Light in the Desert Book Signing with lecture and image presentation.
Book Signing with lecture and image presentation with photographs from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert by Tony O’Brien. In 1968 the Trappist monk Thomas Merton visited the Benedictine monastery Christ in the Desert, near Abiquiu, NM, shortly after it was founded. His writings and photographs of his experience brought the secluded monastery to the attention of a wider community of people seeking sanctuary and spiritual inspiration. After being imprisoned in Afghanistan while on assignment for Life magazine in 1989, photojournalist Tony O’Brien sought solace and perspective at the monastery. He returned in 1994 to do a story and, in the process, became a practicing member of the community. During his year-long retreat, O’Brien was granted rare access to photograph the monastery and the daily activities and offices that have been kept in a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. O’Brien’s camera became an instrument of contemplation and spiritual healing, his reverent photographs reflecting, as well, the harsh beauty and austerity of the monastery.
Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 19 & 20
Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm and Sunday: 1 pm – 4 pm.
Santa Fe Library La Farge Branch
1730 Llano Street
Friends of the Library Book Sale: Pre-Thanksgiving Sale
Books, Books and More Books
The sale is only for discounted books, no individually priced “better”
books. Sunday is Bag Day—Only $3 a bag! The Friends of the Library will
provide the Bag Day book bags for the public.
Saturday, Nov. 26
Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo St.
Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Materials in the World’s Deadliest Place
In his book Consuming the Congo, author and journalist Peter Eichstaedt takes readers into Congolese killing fields to unearth what is behind the bloodshed. He offers a view into the situation behind the headlines and examines how we, as part of the problem, can become part of the solution. Eichstaedt is the former senior editor for Uganda Radio Network and Africa editor with the Institute for War and Peace in Reporting in The Hague, Netherlands.
Saturday, Nov. 26
The Lensic Performing Arts Center
211 West San Francisco Street
Circus Luminous returns with an uplifting story of inspiration and transformation. One night, Mr. G, a curmudgeon who likes to control things, including the flowers in his yard, finds himself transported to another world by the fuzzy puffs of dandelion seeds. There he discovers that the simplest beings, from bees to caterpillars to dandelions, can be full of magic and beauty. The Circus features aerial fabric acts, acrobatics, trapeze, stilt-walkers, clowns and the break-dancing of 3HC Holy Faith. $10-$30. Tickets for kids under 12 are half price. Discounts are available for Lensic members.
Sunday, Nov. 27
New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors
Palace Ave on the Plaza
For centuries, artists and photographers have turned to New Mexico’s land for inspiration. The Contemplative Landscape exhibition draws on the rich holdings of the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives as well as the work of contemporary photographers in this companion to Illuminating the Word. Featured prominently will be the work of photographer Tony O’Brien, whose sojourn at Christ in the Desert Monastery in Abiquiu restored his spirit after being held as a prisoner-of-war in Afghanistan. His work is the subject of a new book published by the Museum of New Mexico Press.
Thursday, Dec. 1
El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe
1615 Paseo de Peralta #B
¡Celébrate! The Jewish Experience in Spanish-Speaking Countries.
See Nov. 17.
Friday, Dec. 2
Garcia Street Books
376 Garcia St.
Greg Palast will present his book Vultures’ Picnic
On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 men and spilling barrels of crude oil into the water. Days later, a confidential cable from a terrified insider arrived on investigative reporter Greg Palast’s desk. He had the real, hushed-up facts of the disaster—facts that can only be found buried in the files of a Central Asian dictatorship.
Vultures’ Picnic charts the course of Palast’s quest to bring the truth of the BP disaster to light, as he and his team of journalist-detectives go from the streets of Baku, where Palast searches for a brown valise full of millions, to a small Eskimo village, where he hears firsthand of the depth of deceit and heartbreaking environmental devastation, to a burnt-out nuclear reactor in Japan, to Chevron’s operations in the Amazon jungle.
Sunday, Dec. 4
319 S Guadalupe St
The Bob Dylan Brunch
Joe West, Josh Martin, Cozy Ralston, and Margaret Burke perform Bob Dylan songs old and new, known and unknown. Prizes and Dylan trivia! Bob Dylan will most likely not be in attendance…
Sunday, Dec. 4
Ramon Calderon: A Sunday Afternoon in Havana
Imagine yourself with a mojito listening to Latin music in Old Havana. Ramon Calderon has recreated this scene right here at El Farol. Ramon is from Cuba, a great musician, a musical historian and vocalist. Ramon has another talent: “Musica con La Boca”—a one man orchestra. He produces all the sounds of the orchestra vocally and plays them back in full harmony. You’ll think that it’s a full band.
Friday, Dec. 9
6 -11 p.m
Hilton of Santa Fe
100 Sandoval Street, Santa Fe, NM
Cowboy Christmas Dinner & Dance
Horses For Heroes-New Mexico, Inc. is preparing to celebrate its 2nd Annual Cowboy Christmas Dinner & Dance. Cowboy Christmas is our organization’s big fund-raising event of the year. The event includes top area entertainment, a silent auction, a scrumptious dinner and a live auction featuring prominent New Mexico artists. If you cannot attend, please consider purchasing a ticket for one of our Warriors.
Tickets can be purchased via check or by visiting our website at: www.horsesforheroes.org.
Horses For Heroes – New Mexico, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Cowboy Up! is a unique horse therapy, wellness and vocational rehabilitation program based in Santa Fe, NM free to Veterans and active military who have sustained physical injuries or combat trauma (PTSD) during their time serving our country.
Contact us at 505 798-2535 or e-mail us: [email protected]
Saturday, Dec. 10
Garcia Street Books
376 Garcia Street
Dr. Stephen C. Joseph will present his latest book, River of Stone, River of Sand: A Story of Medicine and Adventure.
In 1964, newly-minted physician Stephen C. Joseph, just out of his internship, undertakes a two-year assignment as the Peace Corps physician in Nepal. The job has two facets; responsibility for the health and medical care of a hundred young Peace Corps volunteers scattered over the roadless hills and valleys along the uplift of the Himalayas, and “do whatever else you want to do in medicine.”
Stephen C. Joseph’s life in medicine has taken him to residential assignments in Nepal, Central Africa, Indonesia,and Newfoundland, with shorter stints in more than a score of countries in Africa and Asia. His previous books include Dragon Within the Gates: The Once and Future AIDS Epidemic, and Summer of Fifty-Seven: Coming of Age in Wyoming’s Shining Mountains. He lives in Santa Fe with his wife, Elizabeth Preble.
Monday, Dec. 12 & Tuesday, Dec. 13
Santa Fe Women’s Club
1616 Old Pecos Trail
Winter Tales, an evening of enchanting original stories read by author and well-known Santa Fe entertainer Charles Tichenor and friends. Proceeds will go to First Contact, a non-profit group helping homeless teens in Santa Fe and The Celebration, a non-profit spiritual community. Tickets are $15. A delightful evening for all. Tickets/Information: Diana James, 505 501-9309.
Wednesday, Nov. 16
National Hispanic Cultural Center
1701 4th Street SW
Closing event in the weeklong ¡Celebrate! The Jewish Experience in Spanish-Speaking Countries. The film, Nora’s Will, is a comedy telling a unique story of lost faith and eternal love from one of Mexico’s most talented new filmmakers, writer/director Mariana Chenillo. Nora’s Will, which won seven Ariel awards, was named Mexico’s Best Picture of the Year; Chenillo is the first female director ever to win the Best Picture award.
Thursday, Nov. 17
The legendary band from East LA—Los Lobos—is performing for a
benefit event. The event will raise funds in memory of local educator Janet Montoya Schoeppner, who lost her battle with breast cancer two years ago. The scholarship fund, established in her name provides scholarships to educational assistants and teachers who are working on their licensure and bilingual certification.
Also, this event takes place during our annual La Cosecha 2011 Dual
Language Conference—Nov.16-19, 201—Albuquerque, NM. La Cosecha is the largest dual language conference in the country and will bring together more than 1,500 educators, parents, researchers and the community that support dual-language enriched education. Joining us for opening ceremonies, Dr. Rosalinda Barrera from the Office of Language Acquisition, Advisor to Secretary Arne Duncan.Information can be accessed at http://www.dlenm.org/lacosecha
Saturday, Nov. 19
National Hispanic Cultural Center
1701 Fourth St SW
Neighborhood: Barelas/South Valley
The New Mexico State Historian will trace the many attempts between 1850 and 1912 to make New Mexico a part of the United States of America. No other state in the union had to struggle for 62 years to be allowed into the union like New Mexico. The reasons, some not so nice, will be addressed in a lecture and slide show by Dr. Hendricks. Phone: 505 246-2261 [email protected] http://www.nhccnm.org
Sunday, Nov. 20
2 – 5 pm
Sandoval County Historical Society
161 Edmond Road & Hwy 550, Bernalillo
Artifacts of Kuaua Pueblo and Santiago Ruins: Demonstration and discussion of artifacts from the Hibben Center of the Maxwell Museum. Participants will have a rare opportunity to see and discuss artifacts excavated during the 1930s at the Kuaua Pueblo and Ghufoor (later named Santiago) sites near Bernalillo. This collection of artifacts is housed at the Hibben Center of the Maxwell Museum in Albuquerque and will be on display during this fascinating presentation. Learn more about the history of the area and see some fine examples from the collection. $5/adult, ages 16 and younger free. For info: 505 867-5351, www.nmmonuments.org
Starts Saturday, Dec. 3 and each weekend till Christmas
Town of Madrid
29th Annual Madrid Christmas Open House
Please join us again this year in Madrid, “New Mexico’s Christmas Town,” as we celebrate our 29th Annual Madrid Christmas Open House. Festivities begin on Saturday, December 3rd with businesses offering the holiday visitor free hot chocolate, cider and cookies. Throughout the day we invite you to enjoy our festive atmosphere. Activities to include “First Saturday” art reception, 3-5 pm at the Johnsons of Madrid Galleries, the Annual Madrid Christmas Parade at 4pm, followed by our display of Christmas lights. The Mine Shaft Tavern will be exhibiting new works of art by Ken Wolverton and his restoration of the famous mural by Ross Ward, “Cultural Gem of the Mining District,” with live music by Madrid’s own bluegrass band, The Family Coal from 7-11pm.
by Chuck Shepherd
Saddam Hussein Back in the News:
(1) Mohamed Bishr, an Egyptian man bearing a remarkable resemblance to the late Iraqi dictator, claimed in October that he had been briefly kidnapped after spurning an offer to portray Saddam in a porn video. Bishr’s adult sons told the al-Ahram newspaper in Alexandria that their father had been offered the equivalent of $330,000. (In 2002, according to a 2010 Washington Post report, the CIA briefly contemplated using a Saddam impersonator in a porn video as a tool to publicly embarrass Saddam into relinquishing power prior to the U.S. invasion.) (2) In October, former British soldier Nigel Ely offered at auction in Derby, England, a two-foot-square piece of metal that he said came from the iconic Baghdad statue of Saddam toppled by U.S. Marines in April 2003. Ely said he had grabbed the piece indiscriminately, but remembers that it was a portion of Saddam’s buttocks.
Can’t Possibly Be True
— Apparently, officials at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport felt the need for professional guidance on rebranding their facility to (as one put it) “carry it into the modern era,” and so hired the creative talents of Big Communications of Birmingham, Ala., to help. Big’s suggested name for the airport, announced to great fanfare in September: “Chattanooga Airport.”
Justice! … Now!
— (1) Elsie Pawlow, a senior citizen of Edmonton, Alberta, filed a $100,000 lawsuit in September against Kraft Canada Inc., parent company of the makers of Stride Gum, which brags that it is “ridiculously long-lasting.” Pawlow complained that she had to scrub down her dentures after using Stride, to “dig out” specks of gum — a condition that caused her to experience “depression for approximately 10 minutes.”
(2) Colleen O’Neal filed a lawsuit recently against United/Continental airlines over the “post traumatic stress disorder” she said she has suffered since a 20-minute flight in October 2009 — in which, during turbulent weather, the plane “banked” from side to side and lost altitude.
— In August, a state court in Frankfurt, Germany, awarded 3,000 euros (about $4,200) to Magnus Gaefgen, 36, on his claim that during a 2002 police interrogation, officers “threat(ened) … violence” against him if he did not disclose what he knew about a missing 11-year-old boy who was later found dead. In 2003, Gaefgen was convicted of the boy’s murder and is serving a life sentence, but the court nevertheless thought he should be compensated for his “pain and suffering.”
Names in the News:
Among the family members of Jared Loughner (the man charged with shooting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January) who were interviewed by authorities regarding mental illnesses in the Loughner family: Loughner’s distant cousin Judy Wackt. Passed away in May in Fredericksburg, Va.: retired Army Sgt. Harry Palm. Charged with murder in Decatur, Ill., in September: a (predictably underrespected) 15-year-old boy named Shitavious Cook.
Hey, It Could’ve Happened:
(1) The British recreation firm UK Paintball announced in August that a female customer had been injured after a paintball shot hit her in the chest, causing her silicone breast implant to “explode.” The company recommended that paintball facilities supply better chest protection for women with implants. (2) The Moscow, Russia, newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets reported in October that a local woman’s life had been saved by her “state-of-the-art” silicone breast implant. Her husband had stabbed her repeatedly in the chest during a domestic argument, but the implant’s gel supposedly deflected the blade.
(1) In Charlotte, N.C., in October, a female motorist was arrested for ramming another woman’s car after that woman said “Good morning” to the motorist’s boyfriend as the women dropped kids off at school. (2) In Arbutus, Md., in October, a woman was arrested for throwing bleach and disinfectant at another woman in a Walmart (an incident in which at least 19 bystanders sought medical assistance). Police learned that the arrestee’s child’s father had become the boyfriend of the bleach-targeted woman. (3) In a hospital in Upland, Pa., in October, two pregnant women (ages 21 and 22) were arrested after injuring a woman, 36, and a girl, 15, in a brawl inside a patient’s room.
Unclear on the Concept
— The North Koreans called it a “cruise ship” and tried to establish a business model to attract wealthy tourists from China, but to the New York Times reporter on board in September, the 40-year-old boat was more like a “tramp steamer” on which “vacationers” paid the equivalent of $470 to “enjoy” five days and nights at sea. More than 200 people boarded the “dim” and “musty” vessel, “sometimes eight to a room with floor mattresses” and iffy bathrooms. The onboard “entertainment” consisted not of shuffleboard but of “decks of cards” and karaoke. Dinner “resembled a mess hall at an American Army base,” but with leftovers thrown overboard (even though some of it was blown back on deck). The trip was capped, wrote the Times, by the boat’s crashing into the pier as it docked, knocking a corner of the structure “into a pile of rubble.”
— The thief who made off with the valuable lamp from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Winson Green, England, in October might well return to the building soon, for confession. Clearly visible on the surveillance video inside was the man, as he was just about to snatch up the lamp, making the sign of the cross.
— Sally Stricker was angry that the Nebraska troopers patrolling the state fair grounds in September had told her that she had an “illegal” message on her T-shirt and that if she wished to remain at the fair, she would have to either change shirts or wear hers inside out. The “message” was a marijuana leaf with the slogan “Don’t panic, It’s organic.” Stricker was at the fair to attend the night’s live concert — starring (marijuana-friendly) Willie Nelson.
— Boise State University’s highly rated football team suspended three players for several games at the beginning of the season for violating eligibility rules by receiving impermissible financial benefits. According to an October news release by the school, the most prominent player sanctioned was Geraldo Boldewijn, the team’s fastest wide receiver, who had improperly received the use of a car. (However, it was a 1990 Toyota Camry with 177,000 miles on it.)
Mixed Evidence on Smoking
(1) It’s Bad for You: A 44-year-old woman was hospitalized with a head injury and a broken clavicle in September after she inadvertently walked into a still-moving train at the Needham Center station near Boston. Her attention had been diverted because she was trying to light her cigarette as she walked. (2) Sometimes, It’s OK: A 51-year-old woman told police she fought off an attempted street robbery in Pennsville Township, N.J., in October by burning the age-20-something assailant with her lit cigarette. She said the man yelled “Ouch” and ran away.
A News of the Weird Classic (April 1993)
In a 1992 issue of the journal Sexual and Marital Therapy, two therapists at the Institute of Psychiatry in London described “orgasmic reconditioning” they performed on their patient, “George,” age 20. They reported “partial” success in getting George to switch his masturbatory stimuli from the family car (an Austin Metro) to photographs of naked women. George had reported arousal previously only when sitting in the car or when squatting behind it while the engine was running. (Before that, George was sexually preoccupied with urination by women, children and dogs.)
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Natural Selection Spanks: ‘Planking’
2011 Darwin Award Nominee
Confirmed True by Darwin
15 May 2011, Brisbane, Australia | Planking! What is it? ‘Planking’ is the peculiar wit and skill of lying flat as a plank in unusual locations–train tracks, fire hydrants, clotheslines, motorcycles–and posting public photographs for all to admire. This Australian craze had infected poor, poor Mr. Acton B., a Brisbane resident and former planking enthusiast, who was not (yet) aware that Balconies Are the Number One Cause of Gravity-Related Darwin Awards. Not knowing, he was doomed to repeat the lesson.
Planking is nothing without a photograph. For the camera, the 20-year-old stretched himself out face-down on the railing, arms by his sides, stiff as a plank, balanced on the fine line between fun… and done. Natural Selection nudged him over the line, and he fell seven stories to his death. Blessedly he was not naked.
The men down under have risen to the top of the zany crop, planking naked, planking on Police cruisers, even planking across the desks on TV Network News. Other falling deaths are described as “unrelated to planking.” Planking has well and truly jumped the shark.
Playing with Cats
1996 Darwin Awards Runner-Up
Confirmed True by Darwin
(2 January 1996, India) A tiger killed one man and mauled another at the Calcutta zoo yesterday when they tried to put a marigold garland around its neck in a New Year’s greeting.
Prakesh Tiwari, the dead man, and Suresh Rai had been drinking before they bought the floral garlands and crossed the moat around the tiger’s enclosure, authorities said. “I was shocked to see the two young men weaving about in front of a tiger with garlands in their hands, ” said Rakesh Banerjee, who witnessed the attack that triggered panic and a near stampede in the zoo.
The men, both in their 20’s, were trying to put the garland on a 13-year old male Royal Bengal tiger named “Shiva” after the Hindu god of destruction. When Rai threw the garland around Shiva’s neck, the tiger attacked him. His friend Tiwari intervened, kicking the tiger in the face. The tiger released Rai, and attacked and killed Tiwari.
“I saw it all; the tiger turned and jumped on the other young man and put its head on the man’s neck, and within moments, the man was apparently dead, his head dangling,” Banerjee said.
The two were reportedly devotees of the goddess Durga and had gone to “worship” the tiger. Immediately after the incident, an angry crowd went on a stone-pelting spree in which two children and a woman were injured.
Reference: Kunal Sen Gupta of Calcutta India and The Associated Press
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